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Cowboys get WR Austin back; LB Lee next?

The SportsXchange

VALLEY RANCH, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Miles Austin returned to practice and is expected to play Sunday against the New York Giants.

Austin missed three games before last week's bye with a hamstring injury, a chronic issue for the 29-year-old receiver who has just 15 receptions this season. Austin caught 10 passes for 72 yards Week 1 against the Giants.

Owner Jerry Jones said Tuesday that Austin would be back on the field after practicing last Wednesday and again to begin preparation for the Giants.

"That it works this way, to have him for these next six ballgames (is good). I'm really, probably getting ahead of myself because of the history we've had there with him with his hamstrings," Jones said. "To have him back out there, he's our best route runner. He'll make a difference in what we're doing offensively."

Linebacker Sean Lee (hamstring) is not likely to play, but Jones said his "Superman" linebacker might return well ahead of the original projection.

The Cowboys didn't make any changes on offense as far as the play-caller is concerned during the off week. But coach Jason Garrett has found himself spending more time with the offense during practice.

The Cowboys rank 30th in the NFL in third-down conversions and quarterback Tony Romo ranks 30th in the league in yards per attempt on third downs. His third-down passer rating is a woeful 57.6.

"I was down there a little bit more the last couple of days," Garrett said. "I typically move all over the practice field and just dive in and coach, help out, do what I can do to make our team better."

Austin's return could provide a spark. He works primarily in the slot, and the Giants are short-handed at cornerback. How they are equipped to slow down Dez Bryant and rookie Terrance Williams outside and Austin and tight end Jason Witten underneath is a key to Sunday's game.

The Cowboys, who have wins over all three division foes and still control their own destiny in the division, understand their margin for error has decreased but will not dwell on it.

"Sometimes as a coach you have to provide perspective - where we are, where we've been, where we're going, all that stuff," Garrett said. "You've got to be careful spending too much time on that. You really have to focus on today. So every so often we'll share that with them, just so we have a little bit of a feel of where we are and where we hope to go. But I think more than anything else, it's the plan to get there and typically that involves being particularly good on that particular day. That's a lot of particulars."
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