1. The biggest questionNo doubt, the Cowboys’ key cog on and off the field is quarterback Dak Prescott. After 73 straight games as Dallas’ starter, he suffered a season-ending ankle fracture and dislocation in Week 5 of the 2020 season. By spring, Prescott had ditched his boot and crutches, returning to full-speed running and football moves without favoring either leg. He participated fully in May and June offseason practices with the exception of team drills and live tackling. McCarthy expects Prescott to integrate into that final segment soon. “Unless something comes out of the medical meeting, I see for him to be a full participant,” McCarthy said. “It’s a projection and we will see how it goes. We will watch him. … But he will participate in the team drills.” McCarthy and the Joneses each expressed high expectations from Prescott’s leadership after the franchise awarded him a four-year, $160 million with $126 million guaranteed in March. McCarthy said Prescott’s responsibility will increase with the new financial vote of confidence. Coach expects quarterback to embrace the challenge. “To me, that’s part of the contract,” McCarthy said. “When players receive big contracts, I view it, this is my opinion, that obviously they’re being rewarded and recognized for what they do on Sundays. But the responsibility that they have Monday through Saturday greatly increases. And nobody emulates that more than Dak Prescott. “He’s an outstanding quarterback that has great days in front of him.”
2. The extra set(s) of eyesCoaches, management, media and staff filled socially distant assigned seats during Wednesday’s news conference. Flanking either side of those folding chairs were crew members for HBO’s reality TV show, Hard Knocks. The Cowboys were selected as the featured team for the third time in the series’ 20 seasons. Jerry Jones said the opportunity to welcome more eyes to his club was a “quick decision.” McCarthy, meanwhile, was less eager for what could serve as a distraction to a team looking to rebound from the coach’s disastrous 6-10 inaugural season. “I am just going to be honest,” McCarthy said. “I almost wrecked my truck when Jerry called me, driving through a rainstorm. But once I got back on the road, I am all in.” McCarthy said his message from the Hard Knocks crew was simply “be yourself.” That didn’t stop Jerry Jones from handing his coach Jamie Foxx-designed sunglasses as they approached the news conference podium so McCarthy would be TV-ready. Shades or not, McCarthy said “establishing a winning culture” remains his focus. “Let them do their jobs and we are going to do ours,” McCarthy said. “We are all just excited to get on the field and get going and start building what we know we can accomplish. At the end of the day, it’s about winning a world championship. Nothing else really matters. “It’s a long ways away.”
3. ‘Head in the sand’How far away is a Cowboys championship realistically? McCarthy and the Joneses considered the question on Wednesday. They agreed that 2020’s shortcomings couldn’t be blamed completely on injuries but that it would be disingenuous not to factor in how the bevy of sidelined starters impacted last year’s results. “I think you’re sticking your head into the sand if you don’t say it’s both,” Stephen Jones said. With the return of injured players like Prescott and Pro Bowl linemen Tyron Smith and Zack Martin, Jerry Jones said he gives his squad “an arrow up.” When asked about confidence in defensive turnaround, Cowboys Mike McCarthy pointed to line of scrimmage.
“I think our offensive line and defensive line now emulate each other,” McCarthy said. “We’re bigger and longer.” “Go back to the early part of the season last year when we were really jelling offensively,” Jerry Jones said. “Defensively, I would think it's going to be a different ballgame. We've got a lot of the kind of thing that you could make good defenses out of. We got size, we got speed. We've got people that know how to (coach) inexperience. “I think we got a way to make it work big for this season. You put those two things together and I think we got a chance to be a really good team.”