All eyes are on Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys this season. America's Team will be featured on Hard Knocks and even without that HBO spotlight would certainly qualify as one of the NFL's most interesting teams in 2021. They have the salary cap numbers of a Super Bowl contender but not a lot of evidence to suggest they can reach those heights. They have a ton of talent offensively and as many questions defensively.
At the end of the day, how Prescott plays will determine the path this team goes down. Saying the quarterback is the most important piece of a playoff hopeful isn't a revelation by any means. But Prescott was playing out of his mind last season before going down with a nasty ankle injury in Week 5. His ability to recapture the success he had in early 2020, and how quickly he can do it, single-handedly defines the ceiling of the 2021 Cowboys.
A tale from Peter King's FMIA column this morning suggests that Prescott is a tough bastard and betting against him is unwise. King talked to Mike McCarthy and Prescott both about the quarterback's compound fracture and dislocation of his right ankle last year, and they shared how Prescott handled it while he was on the turf in the immediate aftermath of the injury. Prescott tried to fix the ankle himself.
“I walked up on him when he was down on the field,” McCarthy told me, “and I don’t think I’ve seen anything exactly like it. He was trying to put his ankle back together, right there on the field. It was almost—this isn’t quite the right word—but it was almost barbaric.”
Prescott to me, on a quiet day at camp last Friday: “I remember that. My mom had always told us when we got hurt, just to get off the field so she knew that we were like okay. I initially thought I had rolled it and I had looked and grabbed my ankle and it was facing the other way. I’m like, ‘No way.’ I just was trying to like, I thought maybe if I slammed it into place a couple times it’d just snap back or maybe it was just dislocated and it wasn’t broken, stuck like it was. When I did that a couple of times and it didn’t move, that’s when I just started waving to get help. I was literally like, ‘I can’t do this myself. Help, help.’ “
Jesus, man. This game is not for the faint of heart. Most of us (myself most definitely included) would have just passed out immediately, and here's Prescott trying to fix it by himself so he can get up and walk off.
Such toughness does not translate to on-the-field success, obviously. But it seems like a positive sign in regards to how Prescott will handle his first on-field reps mentally. If he was unfazed by his ankle facing the wrong way to the point that he tried to turn it around, he should be just fine when his ankle is fully operational while he's staring down a pass rush.