Michael Irvin’s career ended because of spinal stenosis. Leighton Vander Esch has not talked to the Hall of Fame receiver, but the Cowboys linebacker is confident his neck injury stemming from spinal stenosis won’t be an issue in the future.
“I don’t worry about my neck. That is behind me,” Vander Esch said on a videoconference, via Clarence Hill of the Star-Telegram. “People can think what they want to think. I don’t want talk about it.”
Vander Esch, who had neck issues in college, missed seven games last season and underwent surgery in January. He will play with a small neck roll under his pads to help with “shock.”
He has trained hard the past four months and declared himself football ready.
“I’m back better than I was with my strength before I got hurt,” Vander Esch said. “I feel amazing. Just excited. So pumped to be be out there.”
Vander Esch has played weakside linebacker since he arrived as a first-round draft choice in 2018 with Jaylon Smith in the middle. Vander Esch and Smith will switch spots in new coordinator Mike Nolan’s defense, giving Smith more chances to blitz.
”I guess if you want to call me the MIKE, you can call me the MIKE,” Vander Esch said, “and Jaylon obviously is playing WILL. He might get pulled out of the box a little more, but as far as techniques and how you play, they’re the same thing.”