This mystery surrounding center Travis Frederick is a big deal.
You can even call it a huge deal.
Until it’s resolved and the Cowboys can figure out why he’s getting stingers (pinched nerves) regularly and how they can prevent it, you have every right to be apprehensive.
“There’s no real update other than he’s been getting tests here the last couple days,” said coach Jason Garrett. “And we’re waiting on those results and then we’ll know what his status is.”
So, is surgery an option?
“Hard for me to say that,” Garrett said. “We’re waiting on the results of some of these tests he’s had last couple days.”
That is not a no. That’s a maybe. Or a we’ll see.
The latest news from around North Texas.
None of that is a positive.
Garrett, as you would expect, declined to talk about owner Jerry Jones’ comments on his weekly radio show Tuesday morning. Jones said he was optimistic Frederick would play in the opener.
“I don’t want to comment further than what I’ve said,” Garrett said. “We’re getting some stuff done the last couple days with Travis and once we get that information we’ll find out what his status is.”
Here’s why Frederick’s status is important: He’s among the game’s best centers, a dude who did not allow a sack in 2017.
He makes the line calls, instructions about blocking assignments and protection schemes, for the other linemen, allowing Dak Prescott to focus on the defensive coverages and everything else he needs to do.
And with Frederick, flanked by Zack Martin, Prescott can feel confident that he’s not going to get pressured up the middle.
What quarterback doesn’t appreciate that?
Understand - this team is a team built around having one of the NFL’s best offensive lines.
Frederick, Martin and Tyron Smith were first-round picks and La’El Collins probably would’ve been one if his name had not been linked to a criminal investigation the day before the draft.
Rookie right guard Connor Williams was projected to go in the first round on most mock drafts, although Dallas snagged him in the second round.
The Cowboys’ offensive line is supposed to make up for suspect group of receivers and a tight end unit that has nine career receptions among four players, while providing plenty of room for running back Ezekiel Elliott.
See, everything the Cowboys do on offense is built around its offensive line.
They have spent $44 million on its offensive line in salary-cap dollars in 2018, the most in the NFL.
Martin is league’s highest-paid guard and Frederick’s $56 million contract tops all centers. Smith’s $97 million deal is the largest among left tackles and Collins is the league’s fourth-highest paid right tackle.
It’s a unit that works on synchronized precision. You remove one of the key pieces - Frederick, Smith or Martin - and it’s foolish to think it’s going to function the same.
Joe Looney is willing, but he’s not in the same class as Frederick.
So it’s OK to have trepidation about the offense and the season until we get a more definitive word on Frederick and his status.
“Joe has done nice job,” Garrett said. “He’s a seven-year veteran who has been backup and he’s doing nice job.”
He played more than 50 snaps in the Cowboys’ 21-13 loss to Cincinnati last week.
Until Frederick returns, Looney has the opportunity of a lifetime. The reality is no one knows when Frederick is coming back.
The Cowboys hope and pray, but they don’t know.
If we’re honest, it’s felt like the Cowboys have been telling some of the truth - not the whole truth - about Frederick since he went to see Dr. Robert Watkins, one of the country’s premier back specialists, last week.
The visit was deemed precautionary, no big deal really. That’s what they told us.
When Frederick returned from the visit, the Cowboys said the center received a good report and there was no structural damage.
But once Frederick returned to Dallas, he immediately set appointments with two other specialists
Now, Garrett is being vague about the issue and won’t commit to Frederick’s availability in Week 1.
That’s why it’s OK to be nervous until you get some answers about one of the league’s best centers.