FRISCO, Texas — Dallas Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch will not play Sunday at the New England Patriots because of a neck injury, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said Friday.

“Leighton was having some symptoms. We determined has some issues with his neck,” Garrett said. “Won’t play this week. We don’t think it’s career-threatening.”

Vander Esch’s injury flared up in practice, which led to an MRI. Garrett said he was week-to-week.

Vander Esch suffered a stinger in the Cowboys’ Oct. 20 win against the Philadelphia Eagles. He did not play the next game, Nov. 4 at the New York Giants, after the Cowboys’ bye week, but he started the past two contests against the Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions.

Last week, he hinted at dealing with more than just the stinger and was briefly knocked out of the Minnesota game because of a back injury, but he did not want to use the injuries as an excuse. He is second on the Cowboys in tackles to Jaylon Smith with 87. He also has half a sack, two tackles for loss, three quarterback pressures, a forced fumble and three pass deflections.

As a rookie last season, Vander Esch was named to the Pro Bowl, starting 11 of 16 games and being credited with 176 tackles by the Cowboys’ coaches. He also had three tackles for loss, five quarterback pressures, six pass breakups and two interceptions.

With Vander Esch out, the Cowboys will turn to veteran Sean Lee at the weakside linebacker spot. Filling in for Vander Esch against the Giants, Lee was credited with a season-high 12 tackles with one tackle for loss and one pass deflection. Joe Thomas will move into Lee’s spot on the strong side, but he has missed two practices this week because of an illness.



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