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‘Ready to rock and roll’: Cowboys QB Dak Prescott returns to team drills without pitch count

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FRISCO, Texas — The pitch count, to Dak Prescott’s delight, is gone.

The Cowboys quarterback returned Wednesday to live 11-on-11 work for the first time in more than four weeks. Prescott’s competitive throwing had been restricted since he suffered a latissimus strain in his throwing shoulder July 28—the Cowboys’ first padded practice.

The strain was expected to mend with rest, a positive prognosis but nonetheless a frustrating development for the quarterback who suffered a season-ending ankle injury Oct. 11. Prescott intended training camp to be his time to reintegrate into his offense, to begin working toward fulfilling high expectations from a $160 million contract extension. Wednesday, he returned to chasing those goals more fully. He did not suffer a setback.

“We’re just playing ball at this point,” offensive coordinator Kellen Moore told local reporters Thursday afternoon. “We’re not looking at anything from a limitation standpoint. We’re playing football.”

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Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott jogs onto the practice field for a workout at the team's NFL football training facility in Frisco, Texas, Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2021.
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott jogs onto the practice field for a workout at the team's NFL football training facility in Frisco, Texas, Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2021.

When 11-on-11 began Wednesday in the 102-heat-index North Texas weather, Prescott remained under center on outdoor practice fields at the Star. He coordinated four drives through the period, beginning with run and play-action work. Prescott comfortably rolled out for a screen pass, and he did not hesitate to sell fakes as he handed off to running backs Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard. During his third series with the first-team offense, he found receiver Amari Cooper for a tight spiral underneath and tight end Blake Jarwin roughly 25 yards down the left sideline. Tight end Dalton Schultz was the beneficiary of a deep ball in Prescott’s fourth period. He moved smoothly through third-down situational work, pocket movement and throwing mechanics resembling his pre-injury form as he utilized multiple weapons.

“He’s throwing the ball with some pop,” Elliott said after practice. “Dak looks really good.”

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Prescott had remained active and in attendance through his nearly month-long shoulder recovery. He joined quarterbacks for each footwork session and continued to don a helmet with a headset, listening to play calls from the sideline as he took mental reps during team drills. Prescott conditioned on resistance cords adjacent to his teammates practicing. He eventually threw routes on air, building up velocity and distance. Now?

“We are ready to rock and roll,” Moore said.

Head coach Mike McCarthy knew Prescott was eager to return.

“He’s a caged lion. He’s a competitor,” McCarthy said. “He brings that competitiveness and expertise to knowing the quarterback position. He makes the whole practice better because of the way he approaches it (as) game-like. He treats it the way you’d love to see all your players treat it.”

The Cowboys are comfortable Prescott will face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sept. 9 without restrictions to his health or Moore’s play calls. Coaches, front office members and Prescott himself had initially targeted Prescott’s participation in preseason action to move past his first live tackle in more than 10 months. After the latissimus strain, the benefit of resting Prescott’s shoulder strain outweighed the concern about his ankle absorbing a tackle. The motto, Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones said, was caution.

“The bottom line is he’s there,” Jones said on Dallas radio station 105.3 The Fan. “If he had to, he could have gone out in my mind the next week and played. But since we're over 17 games away from even potentially being in the playoff and hopefully several games in the playoff, it just doesn't make any sense.

“I’d say 100% of any type of restriction that he's having right now in his routine, 100% is about later in the season. I have no compunction about him going out there and playing against Tampa or for that matter playing early.”

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

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Dallas Cowboys: Dak Prescott no longer on pitch count