Cowboys anticipate Dak Prescott will be cleared, return to practice Wednesday

Dak Prescott had indicated his target plan for this week.

Now, the Dallas Cowboys' medical evaluation appears to align.

Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy said Monday afternoon that “the anticipation is for Dak to be cleared today or tomorrow.” He added that Prescott, who underwent surgery Sept. 12 to repair a fracture to the thumb of his throwing hand, will return to practice on Wednesday.

Prescott said Sunday night that he planned to play next week against the Detroit Lions.

“Let’s see if I can do that,” he added.

Cowboys backup quarterback Cooper Rush led the team during Prescott’s five-week absence. Rush guided a 4-0 start to that stretch in which his mistake-free football paired well with a strong Cowboys defense. Then Dallas faced the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, and the offense struggled significantly against the league’s lone undefeated team.

Rush completed just 47.4% of his passes for 181 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions in the 26-17 loss. Teammates hailed how he rallied to help stake a second-half comeback. But when Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham nailed Rush on a deep attempt, facing second-and-8 with 5:16 to play, cornerback C.J. Gardner-Johnson successfully dove to intercept Rush’s pass intended for receiver CeeDee Lamb.

Afterward in the postgame locker room, Cowboys players spoke with a thinly veiled indication that Prescott would return.

All signs point to Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott returning to practice on Wednesday, according to head coach Mike McCarthy. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)
All signs point to Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott returning to practice on Wednesday, according to head coach Mike McCarthy. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

Prescott returns to a favorable early slate. Dallas’ next three weeks feature games against the Lions and Chicago Bears and then a bye.

The 1-4 Lions boast the NFL’s worst overall defense, allowing a league-high 34 points and 428.6 yards per game. Their passing defense is seventh-worst, allowing 261 yards per game.

The Bears' defense ranks 11th in points allowed, 16th in total yards and fourth against passing attacks. But a dysfunctional offense that has managed just 15.5 points per outing (second worst in league) must withstand the Cowboys’ talented defense, which means there will be some cushion for Prescott and Co.

That reintroduction could help Prescott, who had an uncharacteristically poor performance in the opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before his injury, establish rhythm including with teammates who have returned from injury since he exited. Dallas has shored up its offensive line and established groove in the running game in recent weeks.

The seventh-year pro holds a 53-33 career record during which he has completed 66.4% of passes for 22,217 yards, 143 touchdowns and 51 interceptions. He has also rushed for 25 scores in his career.

McCarthy said he doesn’t want Prescott to return with hesitation or limitation

“Dak needs to play his game if he goes this week,” McCarthy said Monday.

Recent throwing sessions jumpstarted that process. Saturday, Prescott went through 7-on-7 work including third-down and red-zone drills. Before kickoff at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday, he cycled through a roughly 50-throw script and said he felt “fantastic.”

Prescott will throw a specified number of passes on Tuesday before resuming his “full throwing load” on Wednesday, McCarthy said. His reclamation of the starting role from Rush will hinge on more than grip strength and risk of re-injury.

“The final threshold is always you have return to play, but then there’s the timing,” McCarthy said. “When you look at players who return to play, they’re cleared medically to play but if the timing isn’t there, they may need another week. I think that’s why if you look at the regimentation of how we’ve been bringing Dak back, obviously following the medical process of it but we’ve been trying to do as much throwing, particularly the routes on air, as we can.

“I think we’ve checked the boxes.”