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Jerry Jones: Jay Ratliff's status not affected by run-in

Jerry Jones still is holding out hope that Jay Ratliff can return to the field if the Dallas Cowboys make the playoffs.'s Ian Rapoport reported that Ratliff underwent surgery for a sports hernia Thursday morning and faces a three- to six-week recovery period.

Jones told USA Today Sports that he doesn't plan to put Ratliff on season-ending injured reserve, keeping the nose tackle in play should the Cowboys make the playoffs -- they currently sit one game out of both the NFC East and a wild-card spot.

"We obviously need Jay," Jones said. "Hopefully this surgery could get him back on the field, if we have an extended season. That's the way I'm looking at it."

Ratliff has played in just six games this season and has zero sacks, but it's his presence in the middle that the Cowboys' defense revolves around.

The team misses him most against rushing attacks, where he gobbles up multiple blockers and plugs gaps. Ratliff's importance was evident in Week 13 when Philadelphia Eagles rookie running back Bryce Brown thrashed the Cowboys' defense for 169 yards. It led to a heated post-game locker-room exchange in which Jones reportedly told Ratliff, "We need you."

The owner said earlier this week on KRLD-FM that it merely was an exchange between competitors.

"We let the emotion of the game the other day get to us, but that is just the way things work sometimes," Jones said.

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Jones told USA Today it is "absurd" to believe the altercation will alter Ratliff's status with the team.

The Cowboys have been shaky with and without Ratliff this season, and not putting him on IR is a desperate grasp for the future. If they don't play more consistently for four quarters in the final three must-win games, it's a future they won't see.

Follow Kevin Patra on Twitter @kpatra.

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