ARLINGTON, Texas — The emotions of a last-second win against the New York Giants could not overcome the disappointment the Dallas Cowboys felt Sunday after losing quarterback Dak Prescott for the season.
Prescott suffered a compound fracture and dislocation of his right ankle that required surgery Sunday night. The injury occurred on a 9-yard run while being tackled by Giants defensive back Logan Ryan with 6 minutes, 33 seconds to play in the third quarter, and it quickly brought a hush to the AT&T Stadium crowd, teammates and opponents alike.
Prescott left the field, his right leg in an air cast, on a cart and in tears. He was taken to a local hospital for surgery to clean out the wound and repair the fracture, a procedure that went “very well,” a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Cowboys head team orthopedist Dan Cooper brought in noted foot and ankle doctor Gene Curry to do the repair Sunday night, the source said.
A source told ESPN’s Todd Archer that Prescott faces a recovery timetable of four to six months.
Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones called the injury heartbreaking.
“I know this young man very well,” Jones said in a statement. “I know the personal hardship and strife that he has faced, dealt with and overcome in his young life. And I know of no one who is more prepared, from the perspective of mental and emotional toughness and determination, than Dak Prescott to respond and recover from this challenge that has been put in front of him.
“He is an inspiration to everyone he touches. He has all of our love and support. And we have no doubt that he will return to the position of leadership and purpose that he brings to our team.”
An outpouring of sadness and support, both from within the Cowboys and throughout the sports world, followed after the game.
“It sucks. Yeah, it sucks,” said running back Ezekiel Elliott, who has become Prescott’s best friend on the team. “I know we won; it just sucks to lose Dak, our leader. And I was talking to the guys and it’s going to take all of us. It’s going to take all of us to fill that void that we’re going to be missing from 4. Just gotta go out there and play for him.”
Ryan said he felt terrible about the injury.
“First and foremost, the worst thing that happened today was the Dak injury, it’s bigger than football,” Ryan said. “I feel terrible, it was a routine football play. … You’ve got a guy, and I am in a similar position, he is scratching and clawing at one year on his deal to try and get rewarded, try to do the right thing, try to show up to work, try to lead his team, try to get a lucrative contract. He had to come out and prove it this year, so for him to get this type of injury, that’s why I feel like Dak — I hope he gets $500 million when he comes back. He deserves it. He is a hell of a quarterback.”
Stephen A. Smith reacts to Dak Prescott’s ankle injury vs. the Giants and reminds us why he wants the Cowboys to pay him.
Players from both teams, as well as former Cowboys head coach and current Giants offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, consoled Prescott as he left to a big cheer. He raised his right hand in acknowledgement.
“There was a flood of emotion, even from their bench,” Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy said. “Obviously, there’s relationships on their sideline that Dak has, and the respect everybody has for Dak. And that was clearly evident during those moments.”
Veteran Andy Dalton replaced Prescott and finished 9-of-11 for 111 yards, including a 38-yard pass to Michael Gallup with three seconds left to set up Greg Zuerlein‘s winning 37-yard field goal in the 37-34 victory.
“You absolutely hate it for Dak,” Dalton said. “The way that he was playing this year and everything he’s put into it, I hate to see that for him. So, it’s emotional. You hate that injuries happen in this game — unfortunately, they’re part of it, and I’m definitely praying for him. It’s been a lot of fun to be around him ever since I got here, just to see how he works, see how he prepares, and you can see with just the way that he’s been playing this year.”
Prescott’s brother Tad tweeted a picture of the two at the hospital, writing in part: “He’ll be back stronger than ever.”
Earlier this year, Prescott mourned the death of his brother Jace, who killed himself in April.
Prescott was off to a record-setting start to the season, with three consecutive games passing for at least 450 yards. He entered Week 5 with 1,690 passing yards, an NFL best and the most by a Cowboys quarterback through four games in team history.
In the second quarter Sunday, he caught the first touchdown pass of his career, an 11-yarder from Cedrick Wilson that gave the Cowboys a 24-20 lead.
While the immediate concern is Prescott’s health, the quarterback’s future also is part of the equation.
He is playing on a one-year franchise tag that is worth $31.4 million as he and the team were unable to reach an agreement on a long-term deal. The Cowboys offered Prescott, 27, a five-year deal worth $34.5 million per season and more than $100 million guaranteed, but he opted to play this season on the tag, hoping for a larger commitment.
Prescott has been remarkably durable in his career. He had not missed a start (69) in his career and missed only two snaps this season when he was getting evaluated for a potential concussion against the Atlanta Falcons. He played the final two games of last season with a right shoulder injury that limited his range of motion.
According to Elias Sports Bureau data, Prescott’s 69 consecutive starts is the sixth-longest streak from the start of a rookie season since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970. Only Tom Brady and Russell Wilson have won more games than Prescott’s 42 since 2016.
The previous time the Cowboys lost their franchise quarterback to injury in-game came in 2015, when Tony Romo suffered a re-break of his right collarbone against the Carolina Panthers on Nov. 26, 2015. Romo suffered the initial break on Sept. 20 of that season in a win against the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Cowboys finished that season with a 4-12 record, starting four quarterbacks — Romo, Brandon Weeden, Matt Cassel and Kellen Moore. Romo was on the national call for CBS for Sunday’s game.
The Cowboys signed Dalton, 32, to a free-agent deal worth $3 million guaranteed and up to $7 million after his nine-year run as the Cincinnati Bengals‘ starting quarterback. Dalton took the Bengals to the playoffs four times but was unable to win a postseason game.
How he plays as Prescott’s replacement will tell the story of the Cowboys’ season with 11 games to play, but on Sunday, thoughts were mostly with Prescott.
“I just feel terrible for him,” McCarthy said. “He was having a tremendous year. In my short time working with him, he’s made such an impression on me, and he’s clearly the leader of this football team. I have no doubt that he’ll bounce back from this and this will be all part of his great story. This will just be another chapter in a great story. He’s a fine young man and an outstanding quarterback.”