FRISCO — Roughly five weeks since suffering a fractured collarbone in the season-opening loss to the Los Angeles Rams, Dallas Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch has been cleared to return to the field, per a source.

All signs are pointing to Vander Esch being on the field when the Cowboys (2-3) take on the Arizona Cardinals (3-2) Monday night (7:15 p.m., TV: ESPN).

Even it’s just a limited role on passing downs, the return of the Pro Bowl linebacker will be welcomed by a Cowboys defense that ranks 27th overall and last in points allowed.

After watching Vander Esch practice full all week without an complications or setbacks, coach Mike McCarthy says he’s “definitely encouraged” about him playing against the Cardinals.

“All the arrows are pointing up right now,” McCarthy said.

Vander Esch underwent surgery in mid-September to repair a collarbone fracture suffered in the season-opening loss to the Rams.

McCarthy said when Cowboys started the 21-day practice window in preparation to be activated from injured reserve last week that Vander Esch was ahead of schedule in his rehab.

Owner Jerry Jones said the Cowboys wouldn’t play Vander Esch if he was not absolutely ready.

“He will not go back out there if he’s vulnerable in any way, inordinately vulnerable, as to certainly the injury that he has dealt with. I’ll assure you of that,” Jones said. “You can bet if he hits the field that he has complete go and a solid go to go out.

“We would not risk additional injury because of that injury, whether it’s where he was injured or how he’s playing because he was injured. So, all of that you can feel real good (that) if you see him on the field, he should be out there.”


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