What are the Cowboys’ options for Dak’s eventual return?

By David Helman
FOX Sports Dallas Cowboys Writer

The Cowboys have traded in the optimism for some common sense, it seems.

Long gone are the days of mid-September, when team owner/general manager Jerry Jones suggested Dak Prescott might be ready to return from thumb surgery in four weeks.

Instead, the Cowboys are leaning toward caution with their franchise quarterback, as head coach Mike McCarthy acknowledged Wednesday that Cooper Rush will likely make his fifth-straight start in Prescott’s absence in Week 6.

“We are preparing for Cooper to start against the Eagles,” McCarthy said.

Should Dak Prescott start over Cooper Rush vs. Eagles, even if healthy? | UNDISPUTED

Dak Prescott can now grip the football and will start throwing today. The quarterback has not played or practiced since injuring his thumb in Week 1. Cooper Rush is 4-0 since stepping in for Dak as the starting quarterback, and the Dallas Cowboys head to Philadelphia to take on the undefeated Eagles on Sunday Night Football. Skip Bayless explains why Dak should not start in Week 6, even if he was healthy.

This is the benefit of winning football games. To be clear, there’s no reason to believe the Cowboys were ever going to accelerate Prescott’s timeline before he was truly ready to throw a football again. But sitting pretty at 4-1 makes it a lot easier for Jones and others to stop daydreaming about a faster return.

This week is a big step in Prescott’s return to action, though. As practice for this weekend’s trip to Philadelphia got underway on Wednesday, he threw left-handed passes during warmups. He’s expected to work through a light throwing session at the end of practice, marking the first time he’s thrown to receivers since injuring his thumb in that Week 1 loss to Tampa Bay.

“I think we’re still in the medical rehab phase,” McCarthy said. “So once he clears this phase and he’s fully activated, then I think that’s when we have our conversation.”

That’s a beautiful place to be, and Rush deserves plenty of credit for helping the Cowboys to this stage. If the Cowboys’ season was circling the drain, it’d be understandable if their patience was tested.

It’s not a perfect comparison, but the Seattle Seahawks experienced something similar last year when Russell Wilson required surgery on the middle finger of his throwing hand. The original timeline for return was 6-8 weeks, although Wilson returned after just five.

Exciting as it might have been to have the starter back in the lineup, Seattle struggled to a 0-3 mark after Wilson’s return, getting shut out in his first game back and scoring just 28 points in those three games. Wilson later acknowledged that he “definitely” wasn’t at 100% when he came back, and that it took him several weeks to start feeling better.

Conversely, former Saints quarterback Drew Brees suffered a throwing hand injury in 2019 and saw better results. Brees required surgery on his right thumb after injuring it in a Week 2 loss to the Rams. After missing five games, he returned with a splint on the injured thumb and completed 79% of his passes for 373 yards and three touchdowns in a 31-9 demolition of the Cardinals.

Why Dak Prescott is not an ‘A’ graded quarterback | THE HERD

Why Dak Prescott is not an 'A' graded quarterback |  THE HERD

Dak Prescott is reportedly gripping a football now, but the Dallas Cowboys are prepared to start Cooper Rush against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 6. Colin Cowherd weighs in, including why the team should not only start Rush but how Dak compares to Kirk Cousins.

No two injuries are alike, but it’s at least interesting to think that there’s precedent here. The initial thought on Prescott’s return was that it would take six to eight weeks, and the Cowboys are now inching into that territory. Next week’s game against the Lions will be the six-week mark from the injury. It’s also worth noting that the Cowboys’ bye week sits just a few weeks away on Nov. 6.

It’s too soon to say what the course of action will be. Jones noticeably stopped giving definitive timetables once the Cowboys started winning with Rush. For his part, McCarthy told reporters Wednesday that Prescott’s timeline would be the same even if they weren’t riding a four-game winning streak.

“You’ve got to trust the medical process,” he said. “It’s a 17-game season. That was my immediate response. I know Dak didn’t want to hear it. We’ve got to make sure he’s right for the long haul, too.”

That’s the important part. Each week gives Prescott a better chance of playing effectively when he returns, and the Cowboys’ strong run of play has lessened the urgency to push the envelope. It’s the better strategy in the long run.

David Helman covers the Dallas Cowboys for FOX Sports. He previously spent nine seasons covering the Cowboys for the team’s official website. In 2018, he won a regional Emmy for his role in producing “Dak Prescott: A Family Reunion” about the quarterback’s time at Mississippi State. Follow him on Twitter @davidhelman_.

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