Phillips: Free still to get playing time

Updated: January 5, 2010, 8:22 PM ET
By Tim MacMahon | ESPNDallas.com

IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys are optimistic that right tackle Marc Colombo will be able to play in Saturday's playoff opener against the Philadelphia Eagles after missing the final seven regular-season games.

Colombo underwent surgery to repair ligaments in his left ankle after being injured in the Nov. 15 loss to the Green Bay Packers. His fibula was also broken when Packers defensive tackle Johnny Jolly inadvertently rolled into Colombo's leg.

The Cowboys did not place Colombo on injured reserve because there was hope he could return for the playoffs. He worked out last week with the team's athletic training staff, and returned to practice on Tuesday.

"I think there's a good chance Colombo will play," Phillips said.

Third-year tackle Doug Free performed well as Colombo's replacement -- highlighted by Free's block on Eagles cornerback Sheldon Brown about 40 yards downfield to escort Felix Jones into the end zone -- but Phillips said Colombo would return to the starting lineup if he's able to play.

"If Colombo comes back, I think Doug will still play some," Phillips said. "Colombo is going to be a little rusty. He's not going to be in playing shape. Doug Free has shown he can play, either left tackle or right tackle. I think he's done a really good job."

Safety Pat Watkins, one of the Cowboys' best special teams player also returned to practice, though Phillips isn't sure if he'll play.

Phillips said third-team running back Tashard Choice suffered a "slight" concussion during Sunday's win over the Eagles. Choice was held out of practice and instead worked on the side with a team trainer, but Phillips expressed optimism that Choice would be cleared for the game.

Tim MacMahon covers the Cowboys for ESPN Dallas. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.

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