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Lance Dunbar could return for Dallas Cowboys soon

Last season, Dallas Cowboys running back Lance Dunbar seemed to have finally carved out a role as a pass-catching weapon out of the backfield. In the first three weeks, Dunbar compiled 21 receptions for 215 yards -- including 10 catches for 100 yards in Week 3.

Then the 26-year-old tailback suffered a devastating knee injury in Week 4, ending his season. The injuries reportedly included tears in his ACL, MCL and patellar tendon. Dunbar, however, re-signed with the Cowboys this offseason. Patellar injuries are often the most devastating, especially for a player who relies on cutting -- Victor Cruz sat out all of last year after such an injury.

It's been expected that Dunbar would start training camp on the physically unable to perform list and might even miss the start of the season, but Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones said Monday the team has not "totally ruled out" Dunbar being ready at some point in camp and "may be able to play sooner than later."

"We're going to be careful," Jones told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "It's a long year for him, and we want to do things the right way with him. But gosh, I commend him. He's worked so hard and come so far, so fast -- a lot faster than anyone dreamed he could come.

"We've also got to do what's right in his best interest and certainly not jeopardize any of the hard work he's put into this. But I think we've got a great look at what he can for us. I think Tony (Romo) got a good look even though he wasn't out there with him for a lot of that with what he can do for our football team."

Dunbar was on a ridiculous pace as a receiver out of the backfield last season. In just three games, he came two yards shy of setting a career-high in yards. Extrapolate his pre-injury stats over an entire season and he'd have broached the 1,100-yard receiving mark.

While he won't reach those totals, if he can return healthy at some point in 2016, Dunbar will add another dimension to the Cowboys' offensive attack and eat into some of the pass-catching duties for rookie Ezekiel Elliott.

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