from Martin Rogers
FOX Sports Columnist
Six months ago this week, Dak Prescott was under pressure. Well, more precisely, he was talking about being under pressure. He loved the pressure, he said. He welcomed him. She brought out the best in him and Dallas Cowboys. It created the right kind of expectations.
“I don’t know why people label the word ‘pressure’ as such a bad thing,” Prescott said.
A few days later, the Cowboys were eliminated, defeated by the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC wild card round.
Whether it was the pressure or just the elite 49ers defense, Prescott and Dallas were heading into the offseason, extending a dismal stretch that has seen the franchise win just three playoff games in the past quarter-century.
Now, with most of the summer gone and thoughts turning to a new campaign, he’d better start loving the pressure again, or at least get comfortable with it. Because there are many to come.
Such is the nature of things as a Cowboys quarterback, where expectations and reality don’t always mesh well, and where the hunger and desperation for success grows with each barren year.
Prescott’s season was statistically spectacular – with 4,449 yards and 37 touchdowns against just 10 interceptions – in a campaign that saw him return from a gruesome dislocation and compound fracture of his right ankle.
In terms of numbers, it’s hard to see how he could have done much more. And yet, when the fiery debates that fill these non-football months turn to which players will have the heaviest expectations in the coming year, Prescott is usually at the top of every list.
A season like the one he just had — good enough for a 12-5 record — would pass just about anywhere else. But Dallas fans are tired. They have had seasons of hope that were supposed to lead to more. Positive signs. Platform paving campaigns. Years of building and learning. Plus, a bunch of substandard obscurity mixed in.
Now it is on the point of victory or failure. Win, how you really win. Not as in double digit wins, but as in playoff wins.
It’s just been too long. A lot of hope invested, and for Jerry Jones, a lot of money spent. Many false dawns.
Is it fair for Prescott to shoulder the brunt of that responsibility? Hardly. But that comes with the territory of being the Cowboys quarterback, and he knows it.
When you’re the QB of the Cowboys, there’s just nothing about you that people aren’t interested in. It could be your love life. What car are you driving? What are your views on non-football related topics? Heck, they’re still interested enough in Tony Romo that his win in a pro-am golf tournament last weekend garnered a lot of notice.
Currently, for Prescott, the hot topic is his physique. The 28-year-old has slimmed down over the summer, training with a full-time trainer he personally employs.
Dak Prescott in “best shape of his life”
Dak Prescott is feeling good entering this season. He told reporters he is “in the best shape I’ve ever been in.” The Dallas Cowboys quarterback also raved about his recent trip to Miami with his teammates before training camp. Skip Bayless thinks how much this offseason will help his quarterback’s performance.
“A few weeks out (of training camp) and I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been,” he told reporters. “So it’s time to step it up and move on.
“Whether it’s a break or not, (my trainer) comes with me. We work on these movements and stretches. I feel like, since the injury, I’ve trained more functionally than ever. So I see it in my body. , I see it the way it moves and the way the ball is coming out”.
In theory, Prescott should be set to perform even harder this season than he did last season, which was the first phase of a four-year, $160 million contract. He no longer has to go through an extensive pre-workout routine to ensure his ankle is properly supported.
His mobility, 21 months removed from injury, is higher, so much so that coach Mike McCarthy has already talked about getting Prescott into more of the running game.
Prescott is making all the right noises and seems full of optimism — although optimism is a dangerous word in Dallas and should be handled with care.
Odds are exercising some caution on the Cowboys, placing them as the eighth favorite to win the Super Bowl, at +1800. Skeptics have concerns about the departure of favorite wide receiver Amari Cooper and the overall status of the offensive line.
When Prescott addressed the media, there was an air about him. A good one, of course, but hard to put your finger on explicitly.
A sense of confidence, no doubt about it. A sense of readiness, eagerness perhaps, to get things going?
Prescott says he’s ready for it all, ready to unleash his new physique, ready for the opportunity, ready to try to make up for the latest disappointment.
And, apparently, ready for the pressure, which is always there — and until the Cowboys return to the Super Bowl — ever increasing.
You might as well learn to love it, because it won’t go away.
Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and author of the FOX Sports Insider newsletter. Yyou can subscribe to the daily newsletter here.
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