Cowboys' concern over Witten's injury

An extended absence for Jason Witten would hurt the Dallas Cowboys offense. Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Adam Schefter answers reader questions in his mailbag twice a week. Got a query of your own? Submit it here.

Q: How worried should Dallas Cowboys fans be about Jason Witten's injury? Will he be back by the regular-season opener on September 5th?

-- Tracy (New Mexico)

A: The Cowboys don't know the extent of the injury right now, Tracy, which suggests that they should be worried. They're going to have to wait another week or so to determine whether he needs surgery. Right now, the Cowboys are of the mind that Witten will not need surgery. But if something changes, and he does, he would be sidelined indefinitely, which would be a blow. A reliable veteran such as Witten is very valuable. And Dallas might not know whether he can go until much closer to the opener. If he can't go, Dallas has some decent backup tight ends. John Phillips has flashed in training camp before, and James Hanna is a big target. But each has a long way to go before he can be counted on to replace Witten.

Q: What's the latest on the referee negotiations? These replacement refs are terrible. Will a deal get done before the season?

-- Robert (Iowa)

A: This is a deadline league, Robert, and some people believe there will be a real run to get a deal done in the week before the regular-season opener. Some people believe it will get done then, others are not nearly as optimistic. One NFL executive recently estimated that he didn't see this dispute ending until at least the third week of the regular season. But again, as in any negotiation, when deals have to get done, they usually do. This deal has to get done before the regular season begins. For now, the only thing that seems almost certain is that replacement refs will work the remainder of the preseason.

Q: Do you have any news on who is winning the battle to be Darren McFadden's backup in Oakland?

-- Michael (Minnesota)

A: Right now, Taiwan Jones is listed as the backup, Michael. Jones, as Raiders fans know, is blazing fast, just the way Mr. Davis liked his players. Mike Goodson was having a really good camp until he had a collision that sidelined him. But the Raiders have two backs they can turn to in the event that McFadden gets injured again. It looks like they have some quality replacements to replace Michael Bush, who's now backing up Matt Forte in Chicago.