The Dallas Cowboys' charge to a third consecutive Super Bowl took a severe jolt Monday when Pro Bowl offensive lineman Erik Williams was injured in a car accident that likely will sideline him until next year.
"He'll have the opportunity to play again but I doubt it'll be this year," Dallas coach Barry Switzer said after visiting Williams in the hospital. "In my opinion he's going to need reconstruction of the right knee. Thank God he's alive."
Williams sustained a damaged right knee in the early-morning accident, as well as a broken rib, torn ligaments in his left thumb and facial lacerations that required plastic surgery.
An MRI test on the knee indicated two torn ligaments (medial collateral and posterior cruciate) and a torn muscle. A decision regarding knee surgery will be made after four to six weeks.
Williams was heading home from a dance club, where several players had gone after returning from a game in Arizona.
The Department of Public Safety said alcohol wasn't a factor in the crash, but speed and fatigue were. The department said Williams was driving more than 75 mph in a 35-mph zone, and he may receive a speeding ticket.
Williams, 6 feet 6 and 325 pounds, was spared further injury by the air bag in his Mercedes.
The only good news for the Cowboys after their 28-21 victory over the Arizona Cardinals was the status of Troy Aikman, who sustained a concussion.
"I'll play on Sunday against Cincinnati," said Aikman, who underwent an MRI that was negative.
Rookie Larry Allen will replace Williams at right tackle. It's a position Allen has never played. Also nursing injuries on the offensive line are left tackle Mark Tuinei, center Mark Stepnoski, and Nate Newton. They are expected to play.
Tight end Jay Novacek might miss the game because of a possibly torn abdominal muscle.
"I'm playing, I don't care if we have five high school guys out there," said Aikman.