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What Dak Prescott told WR Michael Gallup after Cowboys extension

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Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott found Michael Gallup in the team’s training room after the news broke.

The quarterback gave his receiver, who’s rehabilitating after surgery on a torn ACL, a hug.

Then?

“The first words he told me were, ‘Get that thing (knee) right so we can get to work,” Gallup said Thursday by phone. “I ain’t going to lie to you: Dak knew I was going to be here for the long haul since I got here. That man’s had faith in me since Day 1.

“He wanted me to be here and I’m so glad he did.”

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Michael Gallup (13) celebrates scoring a touchdown in the third quarter with quarterback Dak Prescott (4) against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at AT&T Stadium.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Michael Gallup (13) celebrates scoring a touchdown in the third quarter with quarterback Dak Prescott (4) against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at AT&T Stadium.

Monday, the Cowboys signed Gallup to a five-year extension worth $62.5 million with $27 million guaranteed including a $10 million signing bonus, a person with knowledge of the deal confirmed to USA TODAY Sports. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly disclose the terms.

The deal represented a financial windfall for Gallup even before he proved his surgically repaired knee could hold up. The deal also allowed Gallup to stay with the club that selected him in the third round of the 2018 NFL draft. Gallup desired that continuity. He wondered, when he tore his ACL on Jan. 2, whether long-term security at home was still plausible.

“I wanted to be here regardless,” Gallup said. “Can’t even put into words what it means to me, everything I’ve gone through to get to this point. All I can really say is I’m just blessed. I had a big smile on my face. And that’s normal ‘MG,’ but it was bigger.

“They put all of their faith in me, so I need to put all of my work into this team.”

Gallup has flashed the ability to pose a vertical threat with the strength and balance to muscle contested catches including along the sideline. He hasn’t yet developed into the No. 1 receiver threat the Cowboys dreamt of after drafting Gallup the same offseason they released three-time Pro Bowler Dez Bryant. He and Prescott can improve on their connection – they’ve never exceeded 56.5% success rate on targets in a season. But Gallup has caught 348 passes in his career for 2,902 yards and 15 touchdowns. His best season came in 2019, the last campaign he and Prescott were each mostly healthy. That year, Gallup collected 1,107 yards and six touchdowns in 14 games.

The Cowboys offense will still heavily feature 2020 first-round draft selection CeeDee Lamb (1,102 yards, six touchdowns in 2021), but coaches expect a more prominent role for Gallup upon his recovery. The Cowboys also placed a $10.9 million franchise tag on tight end Dalton Schultz, who caught 75% of targets last season while amassing a career-best 808 yards and eight touchdowns.

The Cowboys lost two key receiving threats this week, when they traded Amari Cooper (and his $22 million cap hit the team wasn’t willing to finance) to the Cleveland Browns and allowed Cedrick Wilson to hit the market and subsequently join the Miami Dolphins.

Gallup will aim to level up.

“Obviously when I get back out there, you got to take it up a notch,” he said. “Got to be a leader vocally, got to be a leader physically out their on the field. Just let them know they can count on me.

“And psh, you’ve already seen what CeeDee can do. He’s going to bring the same energy and that’s what we’re going to do moving forward.”

Could Gallup see more time in the slot in 2022? Head coach Mike McCarthy said at the NFL scouting combine that growth in the slot is a “big thing for Michael” as coordinator Kellen Moore schemes. Gallup said Thursday he is “definitely not opposed to it.”

“It’s very important because last year that was Coop and CeeDee’s role but somebody’s got to fill that void now,” Gallup said. “So I got to jump in there, whenever my number’s called just be able to move around and be versatile.

“I’m going to have a good time wherever they put me on the field, as long as I’m out there.”

Before that, months of further recovery await, with Gallup’s availability for the season opener far from assured in Cowboys halls. For roughly a month before his Feb. 3 surgery, Gallup underwent a “pre”habilitation regimen to strength his quad, hamstring and calf muscles in anticipation of lost weight and strength after surgery. He’s continued those drills the last six weeks, exercising on the bike, in the pool and with one-legged drills in addition to upper-body work. Gallup said he defers to the training staff on when it’s safe to progress – he acknowledges progress feels “a little bit slow right now” – but he hopes he’ll soon be able to walk on the field and then try jogging.

It’s too soon to know whether the seven-month window between surgery and season opener will be sufficient for Gallup to be full go. His five-year deal gives the club reason to be cautious.

“I mean, it’s definitely a goal. You don’t want to miss no games,” Gallup said. “But I mean, you still just can’t put a timetable on it. … You want to get healthy and you want to do it the right way.

“But you’ve got to make sure you’re right before you go out there.”

Upon return, Gallup will suit up on a team without four-time Pro Bowler Cooper for the first time since midway through Gallup’s rookie season. It was then that the Cowboys dealt a first-round pick to acquire Cooper and help spread targets as Gallup developed. Gallup said Thursday that Cooper was the first to text Gallup when the extension in Dallas was reached.

“He let me know I’m ‘that dude,’” Gallup said. “He taught me so many things coming down here to the Cowboys and being a role model for all of us young boys. I obviously wish him the best: great player, great friend.

“Big props to him. I hope he keeps prospering. Lifelong friend for me.”

In Dallas, the Cowboys will hope Lamb, Gallup and a third receiver likely to come via the draft or free agency prosper as Prescott enters his seventh professional season. Gallup’s mother, Jenny, wished him the same.

“Just a big blessing,” Gallup said Jenny told him. “A big blessing, so make sure you do right with it.”

Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Dallas Cowboys: What Dak Prescott told Michael Gallup after new deal