Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy opened his Wednesday press conference by telling assembled reporters that quarterback Dak Prescott’s right calf “has improved every day” since he strained it on the final play of the team’s overtime win in Week 6 versus New England.
He outlined the plan for working Prescott back into practice starting with Wednesday’s session, talked about the mutual trust that Prescott and Cowboys associate athletic trainer and director of rehabilitation Britt Brown share in progressing through adversity, and even told a story about how Aaron Rodgers played through a similar calf injury in 2014 during McCarthy’s time with the Packers.
And then he casually dropped the nugget that the team is simultaneously getting backup Cooper Rush ready to, possibly, make his first NFL start in Minnesota on Sunday night.
DakWatch: The 2021 Calf Edition has officially begun.
Prescott did take the practice field at The Ford Center on Wednesday, starting off with a long stretching and light-movement warmup period, with McCarthy and Cowboys vice president of player personnel Will McClay watching.
— Joe Trahan (@JoeTrahan) October 27, 2021
“He’s so driven. He’s always going to push through,” McCarthy said of Prescott. “There’s a tremendous history there that you have to tie in. Britt and Dak have a tremendous history and relationship, so I feel like we’ll be on the same page with how he progresses through this. He’s going to do everything he can to play on Sunday. That’s a given.”
Think Dak’s progress might be important? Dak went through a very thorough rehab routine at the outset of Wed. practice – lunges, jogging, high knees, drop backs, etc. Mike McCarthy & Will McClay watched the vast majority of it up close, then conferred w/ Britt Brown afterward. pic.twitter.com/HWGVGAyub2
— David Helman (@HelmanDC) October 27, 2021
Brown’s voice will be a key factor in determining Prescott’s readiness for the Week 8 contest. As McCarthy had alluded to, he has a close relationship with Prescott and was instrumental in getting the quarterback healthy after last year’s ankle dislocation. He also played a large role in rehabbing Prescott throwing shoulder after he strained it in the offseason.
“We don’t want this to be a week-to-week situation,” McCarthy said. “We’re going to trust Britt and Dak and the whole process and make the right decision.”
Prescott went on to participate in most of the QB drills on Wednesday, appearing to jog without any visible limp. He didn’t seem to favor one leg over the other or appear to be compromised while throwing in the portion of practice that was open to the media.
Dak Prescott Michael Gallup
Gallup back in action. Full participant on Wednesday. pic.twitter.com/sGVCJQCjWt
— Brianna Dix (@DixBrianna) October 27, 2021
Michael Gallup, himself returning from a calf strain, was one of Prescott’s targets Wednesday, as was CeeDee Lamb.
Lamb said after practice, “We’re planning for [Dak] to be out there Sunday. And even if he’s not, we’re prepared for whoever’s up next. But I’m just about 90% sure that he’s going to be out there.”
That sliver of doubt, though, means Rush will be getting extra work this week, in case he has to come on in relief.
“I just think it’s a matter of trying to make sure Cooper is ready,” McCarthy explained, “and to make sure Dak is getting what he needs until, really, Dak clears the threshold of the rehab component with Britt. We won’t make that determination on if he’s a full go until we get to that point. So we’ve got to make sure we’re getting Cooper ready, too.”
McCarthy failed to elaborate on what exactly “the threshold” is. While he acknowledged that a quarterback can theoretically play through a calf strain more easily than, say, a running back or wide receiver, the coach also intimated that the club wouldn’t be taking any unnecessary chances in Week 8 of a 17-game season.
“I went through something similar back in 2014 with Aaron Rodgers,” McCarthy recalled. “He actually hurt it later in the year and we were dealing with this in the playoffs, so obviously a different time of year.”
Rodgers played that January day in Seattle, going 19-of-34 passing and even ripping off a 12-yard run in Green Bay’s overtime loss to the Seahawks. But the passer limped noticeably throughout the game and was clearly not at full-strength.
McCarthy continued, “It was difficult. The weather was different, two outdoor games, then played up in Seattle there in the NFC Championship Game, so yeah, that was a challenge. But it was January. It was a different time of year and had some different circumstances.”
This Halloween night’s matchup between the Cowboys and Vikings carries nowhere near that kind of significance, but expect the Dallas fanbase and the national media to breathlessly turn Prescott’s latest rehab effort into a week-long game of will-he-or-won’t-he anyway, as the world waits for a dramatic decision that could- the story will undoubtedly go- have serious implications on the Cowboys’ promising 5-1 start to the season.
Or just take NFL insider Jane Slater, who knows Prescott and the Cowboys as well as nearly any reporter working today, at her word:
“I would be shocked,” she said Wednesday on NFL Network, if Prescott didn’t play Sunday.