Dallas defensive end Anthony Spencer will have season-ending surgery on his left knee potentially meaning he has played his last game for the Cowboys.
The 29-year-old Spencer is on a one-year contract with the franchise tag for the second straight season, meaning he will be a free agent again when he recovers from surgery.
He missed all of the preseason and the season-opener after having arthroscopic knee surgery and having played in week two against the Kansas City Chiefs did not appear last Sunday against the St. Louis Rams.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said the player was likely to have microfracture surgery.
"Here's a case of a guy, you almost have to tie him up to get him off the field," Jones said.
"He was so diligent in his rehab. The individual that I have the most empathy for is Spencer because of the type of person he is."
Microfracture surgery is a procedure to repair cartilage that provides cushion for bones in knee joints and recovery time is usually at least four months.
In his only action this season Spencer played 34 snaps against the Chiefs and head coach Jason Garrett admitted that may have been too much.
"It didn't seem like it was bothering him at the time," he said.
"You can't go back eight days ago and say, `Hey let's have him make 16 plays instead of 30.' We thought we were doing the right thing by him and our football team."
Spencer - who had career highs last year with 106 tackles and 11 sacks - will be paid $10.6 million this season because of the franchise tag.
George Selvie will continue to start in place of Spencer for the Cowboys who play the San Diego Chargers on Sunday.