Cowboys rookie Whitley tears ACL, will miss season

Updated: May 31, 2006, 12:55 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

For former Texas Tech offensive lineman E.J. Whitley, a seventh-round draft choice of the Dallas Cowboys, his NFL career will begin the same way his college tenure did.

With a redshirt season.

The versatile Whitley, the last of Dallas' eight selections in the draft last month and the 224th player chosen overall, underwent Tuesday surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. He will miss his entire rookie campaign.

The injury occurred during a rookie minicamp earlier this month.

Coming out of the pass-happy Texas Tech program, Whitley was regarded by scouts as an accomplished pass protector but, even at 6-feet-5 and 309 pounds, talent evaluators felt he needed to add strength and to become a better run-blocker. Although he played principally at tackle in college, the Cowboys projected him to guard, where they were seeking to upgrade their depth.

Dallas released perennial Pro Bowl left guard Larry Allen in the offseason and signed four-year veteran Kyle Kosier as an unrestricted free agent to replace him. The starting right guard is former Pro Bowl blocker Marco Rivera, but there is little depth after those two.

After his redshirt season of 2001, Whitley started 45 games at Texas Tech, and in 2005 started at least one game at every offensive line position. For his career, he logged 20 starts at right tackle, five at right guard, one at center, 15 at left guard and four at left tackle. Dallas listed him as a right guard.

Like all Dallas rookies, Whitley signed an injury protection waiver before the rookie minicamp meaning that, even with the season-ending injury, the Cowboys must negotiate a contract in good faith with him.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.

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