FRISCO — The Cowboys remain optimistic that Dak Prescott will play Sunday night in Minnesota.
What he was able to do in his limited work during Wednesday’s practice did nothing to dampen that hope.
But since no one will come out and make that declaration, since the quarterback must pass a physical threshold that no one is prepared to articulate or capable of defining, the team must prepare for the possibility that he won’t play.
Mike McCarthy wasn’t willing to reveal much more than that as the team returned to practice at The Star. The Cowboys head coach will work along two tracks, preparing Prescott and backup Cooper Rush to play against the Vikings as the club determines whether Prescott will be able to work through his calf injury in time for Sunday night’s game.
“I just think it’s a matter of trying to make sure Cooper is ready and to make sure Dak is getting what he needs until really Dak clears the threshold of the rehab component,” McCarthy said. “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.”
Prescott has steadily improved since suffering the injury on the final play in the Cowboys’ overtime victory over New England on Oct. 17. He threw passes in one of the drills but didn’t take part in the individual footwork drills with the rest of the quarterbacks in the portion of practice open to the media. McCarthy watched his rehab work on cords and spoke to him after he finished one session.
This isn’t the first time McCarthy has managed a quarterback with a calf strain. Aaron Rodgers was dealing with a similar injury in 2014 when McCarthy was Green Bay’s head coach. That injury occurred late in the regular season and lingered into the playoffs.
McCarthy noted that’s not the case here. He talked about not wanting Prescott to have a setback and said at one point in Wednesday’s press conference, “you know, we are in Week 7.”
He again mentioned the threshold Prescott would need to pass to play without defining it, saying he trusted the quarterback and associate athletic trainer Britt Brown to determine the quarterback’s readiness in the coming days.
McCarthy did say he has found it’s a little easier for a player at this position to manage a calf strain than, say, a receiver. Michael Gallup, who has been out since the opener with a calf strain, returned to practice for the first time Wednesday.
“I think it’s clearly the position that you could probably play with a calf strain earlier in the rehab process than the other positions,” McCarthy said of quarterback.
Rush normally works at least one series with the starters in practice. He got additional work Wednesday and is expected to do so again Thursday.
“I’ve had a lot of time with Coop just from where my role was at my first two years,” tight end Dalton Schultz said. “Running the scout team and stuff.
“Cooper is a guy who is able to laser it. He’s a good quarterback. That’s why he’s here. I think there is a good rapport there for sure.”
Rush doesn’t have much of a résumé. He’s appeared in just five games in his career and hasn’t thrown a pass in the regular season since 2017. His career statistics: 1 of 3 for 2 yards.
Still, players and coaches profess their faith in Rush if he does play. Why?
“We have been talking about staying neutral all year,” running back Ezekiel Elliott said. “That has been one of our themes.
“And that’s like a good adjective to describe Coop by. He is neutral. He is a vet. He has been here for a while. He knows this offense. He is confident and he can play.
“You guys [media] have seen him in preseason. He is a baller. If his number is called, he will be ready.”
Elliott said he honestly doesn’t know if Prescott will play against the Vikings before adding, “it sounds like he will be available.”
Receiver CeeDee Lamb went further than anyone else, saying Prescott looked perfectly fine to him.
“For our game plan, Dak is going to be out there,” Lamb said. “We’re planning for him to be out there on Sunday, and even if he’s not we’re prepared for whoever is up next.
“But I’m just about 90% sure he’s going to be out there.”
That still means the Cowboys must prepare for that other 10%.
Catch David Moore on The Ticket (KTCK-AM 1310 and 96.7 FM) with the Musers on M/W/F at 9:35 a.m., the Hang Zone on Wed at 2:30 p.m. and the Hardline on Tu/Fri at 4:30 p.m. during the regular season.