Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones has put his expectations for 2022 firmly on the agenda, saying they need a viable playoff run for a successful season.

The Cowboys had a hugely disappointing first-round home playoff loss last season, going down 23-17 to the San Francisco 49ers after earning the third seed in the NFC.

Long-time Cowboys owner Jones, who turns 80 in October, said they were in better shape for a Super Bowl push this season compared to last, fuelling the expectations on Mike McCarthy's side.

"Well, I need to win it. I need to win it, but I'll be candid with you, there's degrees," Jones told reporters on Tuesday on the first day of the Cowboys' training camp.

"I want to be fair to everybody concerned. We need to be in the playoffs. We need to be viable in the playoffs for it to be a successful season."

He added with a touch of humour: "I told them I've got a birthday coming up here real quick and I don't have time to have a bad time. It ain't on my schedule."

Amari Cooper, La'el Collins and Randy Gregory have all departed the Cowboys in the off-season.

"(Last year) we had it teed up pretty good, and in my mind we made a hell of a run at it," Jones said.

"I think we're in better shape today to make a run at it than when we were sitting here this time last year.

"I thought last year we had a chance to make a heck of a run at it and had people in place that if we were healthy enough, we might get 'em. And I think we're in better shape."

Jones also threw his support behind McCarthy, who has been Dallas' head coach since 2020, finishing his first season with a 6-10 record and missing the playoffs.

"I want to be real clear: He wouldn't be sitting here if I didn't think he was the man to lead this team to a Super Bowl," Jones said.

Jones added: "I like this staff. And frankly, I like the makeup of the players one year later that were on this team last year and I like the new players that we've brought on."

For the second straight year, Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy was fined by the NFL for having practices that were deemed too physical, with the team being stripped of an organized team activity for 2023. 

After he was fined $50,000 last season, McCarthy was hit with a $100,000 charge this year for violating OTA rules that restrict too much contact during the offseason sessions. Dallas will also lose an OTA practice in 2023 as a result. OTAs with live contact are barred by the collective bargaining agreement. 

Last season, Dallas’ practice was flagged for "live contact violations" after the NFL obtained footage showing ramped-up contact from Cowboys players during 11-on-11 drills.  

They were one of three teams to be fined in 2021 and have an OTA rescinded for practice violations. San Francisco 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan was fined $50,000 and the organization was fined $100,000, while the Jacksonville Jaguars were fined $200,000 and former coach Urban Meyer was docked $100,000. 

Earlier this month, the Chicago Bears had to cancel an offseason workout because they violated NFL rules by having live contact during a session in May. New coach Matt Eberflus said the contact that occurred was because of overzealous players and not the team's practice structure. He said neither he nor the organization was fined. 

The Dallas Cowboys are fearing the worst with wide receiver Michael Gallup sustaining a suspected torn ACL in his left knee in Sunday's 25-22 loss to the Arizona Cardinals.

Gallup landed awkwardly when he caught a touchdown in the second quarter of the defeat, before limping off the field and leaving for the locker room on crutches.

Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones confirmed Gallup will undergo an MRI on Monday to confirm the severity of the injury but teammate Dak Prescott and head coach Mike McCarthy feared the worst.

"It was tough, very tough," Prescott said at the post-game news conference. "Coming in at half-time and going to see him, just unfortunate. A guy that I love. Can't get a better teammate than MG. Sick about it."

McCarthy added: "Feel terrible for Michael. Obviously made a huge play, but you could see just the way he came down."

Gallup has had 35 receptions for 445 yards and two touchdowns this season for the playoff-bound Cowboys.

Dak Prescott revealed the Dallas Cowboys were unaware they had already clinched the NFC title before a 56-14 rout of the Washington Football Team on Sunday.

Prescott starred by completing 28 of 39 attempted passes for 330 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions as Dallas registered 50 points for the first time since Super Bowl XXVII in the 1992 season.

The Dallas QB recorded his fourth career game with 300 yards, four passing touchdowns and no interceptions, which is the most by any player in franchise history, going past Tony Romo (three). 

Dallas' 56-point haul was the third most in a game by franchise records and the most in a regular-season fixture since 1980 as Mike McCarthy's side scored more than 40 points for the fourth time this season.

The Las Vegas Raiders' victory over the Denver Broncos had already secured Prescott's third divisional title in six seasons as the Cowboys' starting quarterback, but the 28-year-old claimed he was unaware of the triumph before the game.

"I don't know if many people knew that we clinched before the game," Prescott said. "I didn't. That's kind of what my message was talking to the guys in the circle up right there [before the game], going out winning this division. 

"I don't know if we're in the world or business of trying to send messages more than we're just trying to get better, day in and day out, game after game and make sure that we're playing our best ball and peaking at the right time heading into this tournament."

Asked whether Dallas had arrested a slump after concerns over their offensive abilities on Prescott's return from a calf strain, he responded: "You tell me. I never said we were in a slump. Those were your words. 

"So I think it would be hard for you to say that now, but, yeah, tonight was a great performance."

Dallas scored on offense, defense and special teams for the first time since 2012 as they became the first NFL outfit to do so this season, much to the delight of defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence who hailed an almost perfect showing.

"I feel like we showed ourselves that we can play a complete game but we still have a lot that we can build on," Lawrence said.

"Being able to go out there and dominate on all three phases of the game, shoot, we just got to keep building on that and get better from it."

The Cowboys extended to a four-game winning streak, though McCarthy's team need to win their final two games and require the Green Bay Packers to lose at least once to confirm home advantage for the playoffs.

The NFC East champions next face the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday before closing the regular season at the Philadelphia Eagles on January 9.

Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy is hopeful of returning to the sideline sooner rather than later after testing positive for COVID-19.

McCarthy watched Thursday's 27-17 win over the New Orleans Saints while isolating in a hotel room in Frisco following his positive test.

Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn filled in to lead the side to victory over the Saints but McCarthy admitted he found it hard to watch and was eager to return.

"I’m hopeful to be in there sooner than later," McCarthy told the team website.

He added: "It was brutal just not to be a part of it. I just hope there’s no one next door, that’s for sure. That’d probably be a good story.

"But I think the emotion of it is like any true fan, I would assume. You’re rooting for your team. You’re rooting for your guys."

The Cowboys are not in action against until Sunday December 12 against the Washington Football Team, with McCarthy needing to test negative twice at least 24 hours apart to be permitted to return.

McCarthy praised Quinn and the coaching staff who filled in in his absence.

“I thought the staff did an incredible job under the leadership of Dan Quinn and [assistant head coach] Rob Davis," McCarthy said. “It’s all about the communication and the urgency of keeping your pace of operation intact.

"That’s the way we train, and that’s the way you want to ultimately play when you get to the game. I thought the dots definitely connected. Just very impressed and very thankful for the job the staff did."

Amari Cooper's prospective return for the Dallas Cowboys against the New Orleans Saints is in doubt, with the wide receiver still not 100 per cent fit after his positive coronavirus test.

Cooper, who is unvaccinated, has missed the last two Cowboys games, both of which have ended in defeat.

With three losses in their last four games, the Cowboys have gone from 6-1 to 7-4 and have seen their lead in the NFC East trimmed.

Dallas will hope to get back on track against a slumping Saints team on Thursday, though they may have to do so without Cooper once more.

Asked about Cooper, Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy said the former first-round pick is "still not feeling the best".

"My gut would be if he doesn't practice tomorrow [Wednesday], I don't see him going to the game," said McCarthy, who himself will not be able to attend Thursday's game due to COVID-19 protocols.

Cooper has made 44 catches for 583 yards and five touchdowns this season.

He has been usurped as the top option in the Cowboys' passing game by last year's first-round pick CeeDee Lamb, who has 740 receiving yards and six touchdowns in his second season.

Lamb returned to practice this week after missing last week's overtime loss to the Las Vegas Raiders with a concussion and expects to play at New Orleans.

The Dallas Cowboys have confirmed head coach Mike McCarthy will not take be able to attend Thursday's game against the New Orleans Saints due to COVID-19 protocols.

ESPN reported on Monday that McCarthy, whose side have lost three of their last four games following a six-game winning streak, had tested positive for coronavirus.

The reports stated the Cowboys had suffered an outbreak of COVID-19 within their team camp, with starting right tackle Terence Steele, three offensive coaches and two strength coaches having to withdraw from Thursday's game.

Dallas subsequently confirmed McCarthy would not take to the field against the Saints due to COVID-19 protocols, though did not state if he had contracted the virus.

The statement also confirmed the team would conduct its Monday meeting virtually, with McCarthy cleared to carry on working in a remote capacity ahead of the game.

Dallas (7-4) sit top of the NFC East heading into Week 13, while New Orleans are third in the NFC South with a 5-6 record in 2021.

The Dallas Cowboys managed to hold down the fort while Dak Prescott was sidelined with a calf strain, but everything fell apart as their quarterback returned to the line-up in Sunday's 30-16 loss to the Denver Broncos.

Prescott completed fewer than half of his pass attempts and could not lead Dallas to any points until the game was well out of reach in an emphatic home defeat against the Broncos that ended their six-game winning streak in the NFL.

Dallas turned the ball over on downs on their first two possessions and four times overall in the game, failing on all four of their fourth-down conversion attempts as they compiled a season-low 290 yards after averaging 454.9 entering the game.

"Frankly we were outcoached, we were outplayed all the way through," Dallas head coach Mike McCarthy told reporters. "This is the first time I've felt clearly our energy didn't exceed our opponent. That's disappointing."

The Cowboys had not trailed by double digits all season but found themselves down 30-0 by the time Prescott threw the first of two touchdown passes late in the fourth quarter.

Prescott entered the game leading the NFL with a 73.1 completion percentage but connected on just 19 of 39 attempts (48.7 per cent), matching the second-worst showing of his six-year NFL career. 

The Cowboys QB insisted he felt "fine" and there were no residual effects from the leg he injured on the game-winning touchdown pass three weeks earlier against the New England Patriots, but acknowledged he did not perform to his standards.

"I mean obviously I wasn't as clean as I normally am or as I have been. It's tough to say and blame that [injury]," Prescott said. "I'm not going to sit there and blame two weeks [off] when I had a great week of practice under my belt coming into this one.

"I just missed some throws and we weren't our normal selves in the passing game when we needed to be. We didn't execute…

"We got beat. We got thumped in every aspect of the game, especially on offence."

McCarthy could have been forgiven for pulling Prescott with the game out of reach in the fourth quarter, especially coming off an injury, but the quarterback said he never considered remaining on the sidelines no matter the margin. 

"There was game left out there to be played," Prescott said. "It never crossed my mind that I was coming out of the game. I think if somebody would have tried to make that decision, I would have told them I wasn't.

"We needed to get something going. We needed to get some energy, some momentum. We needed to show our fight, our resiliency, something that's won us a lot of games. When you're getting beat like that, you've got to show your character.

"I think that's where the path starts with all of us staying in the game and fighting to the end and trying to get some momentum or something going just to take from this game."

Dak Prescott is "preparing to play" on Sunday despite being limited at Wednesday practice according to Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy.

Cowboys quarterback Prescott suffered a right calf strain on the winning touchdown pass for CeeDee Lamb in their 35-29 overtime win over the New England Patriots on October 17.

The Cowboys had the bye in Week 7, allowing Prescott time to recover from the injury ahead of Sunday's game against the Minnesota Vikings.

Prescott was listed as "limited" for practice on Wednesday where he went through extended warm-up, simulated drops and threw passes to his running backs, receivers and tight ends.

"He's going to practice and he's going to go through the individual part of it and he's in the game plans. He's preparing to play," McCarthy said before practice on Wednesday. "He's got to cross the threshold to make sure he's full-go."

McCarthy added: "He's going to do everything he can to play on Sunday. That's a given."

The Cowboys head coach said backup quarterback Cooper Rush, who has not played in an NFL game since 2019, would start if Prescott is not cleared.

"I think it's a matter of trying to make sure Cooper's ready and make sure Dak is getting what he needs," McCarthy said.

"We've got to make sure we're getting Cooper ready too."

McCarthy acknowledged Prescott could potentially play at quarterback with a calf strain, having seen Aaron Rodgers do that under his watch at the Green Bay Packers in 2014.

But he added that they would take a no-risk strategy with Prescott, given the Cowboys are 5-1 and three games clear in the NFC East early in the season.

"I think it's a clear decision, we don't want this to be a week-to-week situation, so until he clears that threshold to try to minimize the risk is really what the decision will come down to," McCarthy said.

There has never been much room on the 'America's Team' bandwagon.

Each NFL season seems to begin with scores of pundits and observers scrambling to find a reason why this could be the Dallas Cowboys' year.

The difference in 2021 is they may actually be right.

Not since their Super Bowl win at the end of the 1995 season have the Cowboys reached the NFC Championship Game.

But riding a five-game winning streak after a thrilling 35-29 overtime victory over the New England Patriots in Foxborough, there is no doubt the Cowboys are legitimate contenders.

And, though there are supplementary factors behind their success on both sides of the ball, the primary reason for that status is clear: Dak Prescott is playing arguably the best football of his career.

A stellar three-quarter century

On his 75th career start, Prescott was once again imperious against the Patriots.

He passed for 445 yards with three touchdowns and one interception, posting a passer rating of 108.7.

It marked his 39th game with a passer rating of at least 100, surpassing Philip Rivers (38) for the third-most such games by a player in his first 75 starts.

The two players above him are the man he replaced in Dallas, Tony Romo (41), and Aaron Rodgers (43).

Should he continue performing at the standards he has displayed through five weeks, a Prescott vs Rodgers conference title game is not out of the question.

Accurate in every situation

Returning from a compound fracture and dislocation of his right ankle suffered in Week 5 last year and entering the season with concerns over a shoulder injury, there were plenty wondering whether Prescott could recapture the form that saw him receive a four-year, $160million contract extension from Dallas in the offseason.

Any such doubts have been emphatically dispelled.

Helming a Dallas offense that leads the NFL with an average of 6.58 yards per play, Prescott is second in the NFL with a completion percentage of 73.1, while he and Matthew Stafford are tied for the league lead in throws that have resulted in a first down, moving the sticks on 44 per cent of attempts.

Completion percentage is not necessarily connected to a quarterback's accuracy, yet in Prescott's case, the link is clear.

Prescott has delivered an accurate, well-thrown ball on 82.9 per cent of his attempts, according to Stats Perform data. That is fourth among quarterbacks with at least 50 attempts this season, trailing Kirk Cousins (84.6), Kyler Murray (84) and Patrick Mahomes (83.3).

A quarterback who has received comparisons to Peyton Manning for his work at the line of scrimmage, Prescott's poise has allowed him to maintain his accuracy almost irrespective of the situation.

His well-thrown percentage under pressure is 77.1 per cent, the average being 70, with only Murray (78.1) and the Patriots' Mac Jones (81.4) above him among quarterbacks to have come under duress on at least 20 attempts. 

Prescott has also been precise when throwing on the move, producing an accurate pass 85.7 per cent of the time in that scenario.

The former fourth-round pick's composure under pressure and ability to deliver on the move shone through in the biggest moments at Gillette Stadium.

On second-and-11 early in the fourth quarter, Prescott connected with CeeDee Lamb for 33 yards having shuffled to his right and reset his feet before delivering with late-arriving pressure in his face.

The final drive of regulation for Dallas saw Prescott put the ball where only Cedrick Wilson Jr. could go up and get it on a critical fourth-and-five with Matthew Judon bearing down on him following a spin move on right tackle Terence Steele.

His first throw of overtime was another hookup with Lamb while rolling to his right and that drive culminated in Prescott finding the same receiver after executing a play-fake left and moving the opposite direction, hitting the second-year receiver on the over route on a throw delivered with his weight falling away to give Dallas a walk-off win.

It could be argued that the Cowboys' own miscues put themselves in such a tight game, and his own coach is perhaps Prescott's most significant obstacle to him delivering long-awaited glory to Dallas this season.

McCarthy's mistakes

The Cowboys will be glad of the upcoming bye week, having seemingly survived a scare when left tackle Tyron Smith limped off with an ankle injury on Sunday, only to return after having it taped.

Smith will have the chance to rest and nurse his ankle and a troublesome neck problem, and by the time the Cowboys are back in action they should have the entirety of their starting offensive line, with right tackle La'el Collins set to return from a five-game ban.

Dallas and head coach Mike McCarthy could also use the extra week to evaluate in-game decision-making, which made life a lot harder on Prescott in Week 6.

Whether it was the decision to call four successive runs from the New England one-yard line in the second quarter, a sequence that ended with Prescott fumbling at the goal-line, or McCarthy's call to settle for a go-ahead 51-yard field goal on fourth-and-two late in the final quarter, the Cowboys' game management was a problem throughout.

McCarthy was bailed out after the latter mistake, Greg Zuerlein's missed kick followed by a pick-six of Jones from Trevon Diggs, but the Cowboys cannot expect to get away with such misjudgements every week.

The Cowboys have an offense teeming with playmakers that is the most efficient in the league by yards per play and a defense second in takeaways with 14, Diggs (seven interceptions) accounting for half of those.

A potent offense and an opportunistic defense is a formula for a Super Bowl challenge, yet it can be ruined if the head coach consistently comes up short with his decisions in situational football.

Prescott has the Cowboys firmly on the path to the title push they have long since craved. It is the man they hired to lead that charge who is the biggest threat to their dreams coming to fruition.

Dak Prescott loved his home return with the Dallas Cowboys on Monday and felt his three-touchdown display continued a career-best run of form.

Quarterback Prescott sustained a compound fracture and dislocation to his right ankle in Week 5 in 2020, keeping him out of the rest of the year.

The two-time Pro Bowler had been setting a record-breaking pace, his 1,690 passing yards through four weeks comfortably the most by any player over the same period since 1960 – although the Cowboys went 1-3.

Fit again for the start of this season and now tied to a four-year, $160million contract, Prescott has returned in similarly impressive fashion.

His 403 passing yards and three TDs in the curtain-raiser against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers came in a losing effort, but a slightly more modest Week 2 performance contributed to victory against the Los Angeles Chargers.

On Monday, against NFC East rivals the Philadelphia Eagles, Prescott completed 21 of 26 passes for 238 yards, three scores and no interceptions in a 41-21 win he described as "definitely special", in front of home support for the first time since his injury.

The 28-year-old's primitive passer rating for the year is at a career-high 110.1, and he feels he is reaching new heights in 2021.

"I said it earlier in the year, and I'll say it again: I think just getting hurt last year and having to sit back and watch football, [he gained] a different perspective and just different ways people play this game," Prescott said.

"Going back, the experience obviously has helped but just studying and preparing myself and then all the work that I've put in just to get back healthy, not only the leg but the shoulder... I feel like I'm playing the best I've ever played."

Dallas now lead the division with a 2-1 record, and coach Mike McCarthy feels Prescott is benefiting from leading a more competitive team this year.

While the QB has completed at least 80 per cent of his passes in the past two games (85.2 versus the Chargers, 80.8 against the Eagles), the Cowboys have also put up more than 150 rushing yards on each occasion (198 and 160).

Ezekiel Elliott has run for three TDs across those games, while Dallas' 139.3 rushing yards per game across the year rank fourth in the NFL.

The last team to complete 80 per cent of their passes and rush for 150 yards in consecutive games were the 1984 San Francisco 49ers, led by Joe Montana.

McCarthy said: "I think [Prescott] is clearly playing better now [than last year], in my opinion.

"Last year, we were in track meets. This is a clearly a different football team than last year. You're seeing three games where I felt like we've been very complementary both on offense and defense.

"He's doing a lot in the run game as far as handling the checks and things like that. Yeah, I feel like he's playing better this year than last."

The Dallas Cowboys do not believe Dak Prescott needs to play in preseason games to be ready for Week 1. 

That was the message conveyed by head coach Mike McCarthy on Monday as he said the team would maintain a cautious approach with their quarterback as he returns from a shoulder strain. 

Prescott returned to full team drills Monday for the first time since injuring his shoulder in practice on July 28, but it does not sound like he will play in Saturday's preseason game against the Houston Texans. 

“We’ll see how the week goes, but there’s no urgency from my perspective to see Dak play against Houston," McCarthy told reporters. "This is more about we don’t want to create a setback possibly.

"His volume of throwing leading up to that point, I mean, he was probably in midseason form from the amount of work he put in over the summer, coming out of the OTAs. ...

“I think we’d all like [to see him in a game] that but that’s not the priority. I think his volume throwing, getting the capacity back to where he was is the number one thing."

McCarthy added that if Prescott does not play Saturday, he also will not feature in the August 29 preseason finale against the Jacksonville Jaguars because the focus in that game will be on players competing to win roster spots.

Prescott's 2020 season ended in Week 5 with a fracture-dislocation of his right ankle, so it will be quite a gap between facing game-speed defenders if he does not play until the September 9 opener at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 

Despite the layoff, McCarthy said keeping Prescott in controlled practice conditions is more valuable to the team than having him face an opponent when the games do not count. 

"We just really don’t want to put him in a position where he can reinjure it," McCarthy said. "We’ll continue to work on that plane."

Prescott is entering his sixth season as the Cowboys' quarterback. In 2019, his last full campaign, his career-best 4,902 passing yards were second in the NFL to Jameis Winston (5,109), and his 30 touchdown passes ranked fourth in the league. 

In his absence, the Cowboys have managed just one touchdown in two preseason games, both losses. 

 

Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy said he was doing cartwheels while on holiday when he heard star quarterback Dak Prescott had re-signed with the NFL franchise.

Prescott had a long-running contract saga which came to an end three weeks ago, signing a four-year deal reportedly worth $160million after he had been tagged last offseason.

Two-time Pro Bowler Prescott only managed five games in 2020 due to a serious ankle injury as the Cowboys finished outside the playoffs with a 6-10 record.

McCarthy, who enters his second season in charge of the Cowboys in 2021, was holidaying in Florida when he found out Prescott's contract saga had ended and was delighted to secure his future.

"It's a lot easier to do cartwheels on the sand, I'll say that," McCarthy said. "Obviously I was very excited."

He added: "Dak is the keystone of this team. I'm excited about year two on offense. In a lot of ways, we didn't feel like we got to have a year one."

Since taking the starting role as a rookie in 2016 from an injured Tony Romo, Prescott has thrown for 17,634 yards with 106 touchdowns and 40 interceptions.

He has also rushed for 1,314 yards and a further 24 touchdowns.

Though he missed most of last season, Prescott is 10th among qualifying quarterbacks in yards per attempt (7.69) and 12th in passing plays of 25 yards or more since 2016.

The quarterback said earlier this month that he was close to being fully healthy following ankle surgery, well ahead of the September start for the 2021 season.

McCarthy added: "His presence and natural leadership ability is something that will continue to grow. You'll see that in the locker room."

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