John Phillips, the No. 3 tight end last season as a rookie, is out for the season after tests Monday confirmed that he tore the ACL in his right knee in the preseason opener.
Both tight ends that came in after Phillips also got banged up. Kevin Brock has a sprained left ankle and Scott Sicko has a concussion.
"We've got to get some tight ends in here," coach Wade Phillips said. "We have several of them that can't play this week."
Witten's primary backup, Martellus Bennett, was held out of the preseason opener to give him time to heal from the sprained ankle that forced him to miss the first week of training camp.
Asked if Bennett would play Thursday night, coach Phillips said, "I hope so. That was part of the plan, give him a few more days to get almost healthy."
Phillips will have surgery after the team returns from Oxnard, Calif., the team said. The Cowboys open the two-week West Coast portion of their training camp Saturday.
Coach Phillips revealed Sicko's concussion Monday, putting his availability for the next game in question.
Sicko is the undrafted rookie from New Hampshire who initially turned down offers from the Cowboys and other teams and said he was going to continue his education.
The injuries weren't limited to tight ends.
Alex Barron, the backup for both offensive tackles, sprained his left ankle and was wearing a protective boot Monday. The coach said the boot was precautionary and there was the "possibility he could play this week."
Kick returner Titus Ryan broke his left thumb Sunday night. Cornerback Cletis Gordon has a sore neck after taking a blow to the head on a punt return in the third quarter after Ryan got hurt.
Most of the starters were out of the game before getting a chance to get hurt.
Tony Romo and the No. 1 offense played only the opening series, going 63 yards in 14 plays for a field goal.
The only setback was having to settle for three points after having first-and-goal from the 2. Romo, who finished 5-of-10 passing for 59 yards, had three consecutive incompletions against the blitzing Bengals.
The Cowboys threw the ball to try to work on one of their problem spots from last season, which is why they threw the ball then instead of using bruising running back Marion Barber like they most likely would in a regular season game.
"It's a situation where we wanted to throw the ball more. We wanted to look at some things and that's the way you do it," coach Phillips said. "We run it three times, I think we would have scored. Our troubles look like to me, inside the red zone we need to be more proficient passing the ball. And run the ball some and we'll be fine. .. It's a little different in that area at this time of the year."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press