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Cowboys back from bye week with healthier roster, outlook

IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys returned from their bye looking like a new team.

Well, at least like the team they expected to be.

Cornerback Orlando Scandrick was back from a high ankle sprain, putting the key members of their secondary on the field together Monday for the first time since early August. The offense was nearly back to full strength, too, with wide receivers Miles Austin and Dez Bryant both running routes for quarterback Tony Romo for the first time since the opening week.

"It's definitely exciting to see what everybody's going to do now that everybody's back," said Alan Ball, who has started once and played plenty but now slips back to being Dallas' fourth cornerback. "I think everybody is going to do just fine getting back in and getting into our system."

The Cowboys were counting on a cornerback trio of Mike Jenkins, Terence Newman and Scandrick this season. Incumbent starters Jenkins and Newman missed the entire preseason with injuries, then Jenkins returned for the opener, but Newman didn't make it back until the third game. Scandrick only played in the opener.

Austin aggravated a hamstring injury at the end of regulation in the second game and has missed the last two. Bryant missed that game with a thigh problem. He has played both games since, but he has been limited in practices.

Romo has a cracked rib that should be close to healed. The only guys on offense still banged up are fullback Tony Fiammetta (hamstring) and guard Derrick Dockery (broken leg, sprained knee ligament).

The Cowboys (2-2) face quite a challenge Sunday by going on the road to play Tom Brady, Welker and the New England Patriots, winners of 19 consecutive home games.

"We're probably going to get killed. They're the greatest team to ever play football. We're going in there to try to hold our own," Dallas defensive end Marcus Spears said, trying to keep a straight face. "Naw. We're going in there to beat them. We understand the type of success they've had."

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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