By David Helman
FOX Sports Dallas Cowboys Writer
OXNARD, Calif. — It still feels like yesterday when Kellen Moore broke his ankle in an otherwise innocuous 2016 training camp practice, giving a then-23-year-old Dak Prescott his shot with the starters.
But as Prescott turns 29 on Friday, it’s wild for him to think about the countless twists and turns that have occurred since that fateful day in 2016.
“I like to reflect here and there just to know where I come from and where I want to get to,” Prescott said Wednesday. “It’s a quick reflection, but it’s definitely moving forward. As they say, the rearview mirror is a whole lot smaller than the front windshield.”
That’s a hell of a visual for Prescott’s current circumstances. As he prepares for his seventh season with the Dallas Cowboys, the accomplishments of the early years of his career look a bit distant in the rearview. The Cowboys’ goals as an organization, unfulfilled for a quarter-century, look awfully daunting up ahead.
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As Prescott knows, history looks kinder on any quarterback who brings home a championship. And when you play for a franchise that has won five of them, with a lot of help from some of the best to ever play the game, the focus is more intense.
“Obviously, knowing the quarterbacks that played specifically for this team and knowing their legacy, the ones that we hold at the highest standard are the ones that have Super Bowl rings,” he said. “It starts there for me, trying to fill the shoes of those guys that come before me and do something for this organization that hasn’t been done in a long time.”
Prescott can thank coach Mike McCarthy for the assist on the questions about championships and legacies. Speaking Thursday about Prescott’s growth as a quarterback, McCarthy dropped a nugget that — while true — emphasizes just how much pressure is on Prescott to deliver.
“At the end of the day, defense wins championships. But the Super Bowl is won by the quarterback, if you look at that statistically,” he said. “That is how I view the journey on how you prepare the team and what the team needs to look like. I think he is a guy who emulates exactly what you are looking for.”
Essentially, the point is that a good defense can keep you in any game. But in a close game against a good team, you’re going to need the quarterback to make the right plays at the right time.
It’s elementary. It’s also about as cliché as the endless debate over whether Prescott is capable of being that guy. But as quickly as his past seven birthdays have flown by, it does make one wonder about those to come.
“I will be 29 on the 29th. It’ll be the golden birthday,” Prescott said. “I plan for this to be the golden year.”
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The Cowboys went through another unpadded training camp practice on Thursday. Here are a few additional notes from the practice fields.
Gallup won’t be ready Week 1
We’ve been talking about Michael Gallup for a long time without talking to him. That changed when the fifth-year receiver met with reporters after practice to talk about rehabbing his ACL injury.
Gallup has transitioned into working out in football cleats, which is a step in the right direction. Still, his full recovery is far enough out that Gallup isn’t putting a date on it just yet.
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“Honestly, I couldn’t even tell you. It’s just day-by-day right now,” he said. “I’ve still got to get in pads. I’ve still got a long way to go, but it’s coming.”
For the sake of clarity, Gallup said a Week 1 return isn’t in play. Cowboys officials have long hinted that he might miss some of the regular season, and he confirmed that Thursday.
“That’s not a reasonable possibility,” he said. “I really don’t know, but I know Week 1 is not in the draw.”
The franchise tag deadline has long since passed, and Dalton Schultz isn’t overly interested in revisiting his contract status.
“This will be the only time I speak on it, but as I kind of move past that, I think I’m at peace with knowing that I put my absolute best foot forward,” he said. “I personally went in there, and we tried to work something out, but at the end of the day I get it that business is business sometimes.”
Schultz allowed that he was disappointed to not receive an extension, but there’s nothing that can be done at this point. All he can do now is improve personally and help his team. For his part, he hopes to renew talks when this season is over.
“This is where I want to be. I’ve said that from the start, and I’ll keep saying it. This is the place for me,” he said.
Schultz has a good resource to lean on in Prescott, who played the 2020 season on the franchise tag. From the sounds of it, Schultz has taken his quarterback’s words to heart.
“You’ve signed the tag, you move forward,” Prescott said of Schultz. “Negotiations and all that, we’re past that, so none of that really matters anymore. It’s about going out there and being the best you can for this team and this offense.”
The newest member of the Cowboys might be the most ready to go.
“I feel like I’m in the best shape,” Turpin said. “I feel like I’m in the best shape from the USFL, and that didn’t go nowhere.”
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That’s good new for the Cowboys, who brought Turpin here to run. The 5-foot-8 receiver told reporters that the fastest he has ever been clocked in the 40-yard dash is a 4.29. The Cowboys hope he’ll be able to contribute as a receiver while also providing his specialty — returning kicks.
“As a return man, that’s what I do. I’m a specialty guy,” he said. “I’m here to prove to everybody that I’m a true receiver. Special teams, that’s just what I do. I can wake up and do that.”
Defense has the early edge
Is there a whole lot to report coming out of the early days of practice? Not really.
The Cowboys are deliberately taking it easy through their ramp-up period, and the juiciest action we’ve seen so far is some unpadded work in the two-minute drill. Though it is fun to note that, through two days, the Dallas defense seems to be having the run of the camp.
In back-to-back days, the starting offense has stalled out in end-of-half scenarios. On Wednesday, Anthony Brown picked off Prescott. On Thursday, Brown got his hands on multiple passes, to go along with breakups by Trevon Diggs and Jayron Kearse.
On top of that, the Cowboys’ pass rush seems to be off to a nice start. They might not be allowed to hit anyone, but the defensive front is making life difficult from a variety of different angles in the early going.
“We’ve got a D-line that can really get after the quarterback, and it’s great work for us,” OG Zack Martin said. “When you look out there and you’ve got Micah [Parsons], DeMarcus [Lawrence], [Dorance Armstrong], Osa [Odighizuwa] — all these guys rolling through, it gives all of us some great work.
“They’re going to be tough to deal with.”
David Helman covers the Dallas Cowboys for FOX Sports, providing insight and analysis on the NFL’s most visible franchise. Prior to joining FOX, David spent nine seasons covering the Cowboys for the team’s official website, DallasCowboys.com. 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.
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