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There’s the brave thing. And then there’s the smart thing.
If it were up to Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, he might opt to do the brave thing, which in this case would mean playing with a calf injury that is well on its way to healing but isn’t quite there yet.
The smart thing is different.
The smart thing would be for Prescott to actually sit out Sunday night’s game against the Minnesota Vikings and come back when he’s 100 percent or closer to it, probably on Nov. 7 against the Denver Broncos.
And why is that smart?
Because if Prescott sits out Sunday’s game against the Vikings and the Cowboys lose with backup quarterback Cooper Rush, their season has merely hit a bump in the road but they remain on course to the playoffs.
But if Prescott goes all hero on everyone and plays, and somehow aggravates an injury that has a way of recurring at inopportune times, then Prescott might have to miss weeks — plural.
Games — plural.
And that could derail the Dallas season.
That would not be smart.
“It’s more than just this game. We’re obviously in our seventh game. There’s a ton of football left to play,” head coach Mike McCarthy said. “That’s definitely part of the decision, and we’re just giving him the time that’s needed to take it all in.”
Prescott, who is officially listed as questionable for the game, will be part of the decision-making process. But should he be?
If Prescott is feeling the tug of an important game and the temptation to simply try to make it work, is he in position to make a wise decision?
Because he’s already got an answer in his head whether he should play or not.
“If it was my call and it was totally up to me, yes,” he told reporters, announcing his desire to play. “But this is something that, I agree with the experts, I don’t want to linger. I don’t want this to be week after week, are we going through this?”
There is precedence for the Cowboys doing the smart thing with Prescott. Even this season.
Prescott, you’ll recall, suffered a shoulder strain during training camp that was a source of some anxiety within the Cowboys for a bit even while he and team officials insisted the injury would not affect him long term.
Well, the reason it didn’t play out as a major issues is because the Cowboys immediately shut down Prescott during training camp and the preseason to keep him from suffering any setbacks. And that worked.
So it would be smart to simply repeat that approach with the team’s most important player.
The decision to play or rest Prescott will be made at the highest levels of the Cowboys organization. That includes owner and general manager Jerry Jones, McCarthy, and Britt Brown, the Cowboys’ associate athletic trainer and their director of rehabilitation.
Brown, with the Cowboys since 1996. is highly respected and decorated in his field. It’s Brown who helps all Cowboys players in their return from injury, and it’s Brown who has been working closely with Prescott this past week – not to mention for the past year, during his return from ankle surgery.
“He knows how I am, and like I said a lot of this, I think, in a sense is them protecting me from myself,” Prescott said. “Them knowing the way I treat this game, the way that I play. So that’s what a lot of that is, just communicating how I feel, what exactly I’m feeling, whether it’s a pain or a tightness or a weakness or whatever it may be.”
McCarthy has mentioned Prescott getting past certain thresholds before the team is comfortable putting him on the field. One happened Thursday when Prescott pressed to his limits in practice.
He predictably came back sore on Friday.
“I don’t know if the decision comes Saturday or when it comes, but yeah I’m doing everything I can to make sure I give myself the best chance,” Prescott said.
It should be noted the Cowboys enjoy a comfortable lead in the NFC East. They have a 5-1 record and everyone else is 2-5. But it’s not just about winning the division.
There are conference playoff ramifications if Prescott sits and the team loses. Dallas is already looking up at Tampa Bay, Green Bay, Arizona, and Los Angeles in the chase for the top playoff seed in the NFC.
But, again, are they going to play checkers or chess?
Are the Cowboys going to risk Prescott aggravating the calf so they can keep pace in the derby for a top seed? Or are they going to be conservative with their star quarterback to avoid the possibility of an injury that — if it manifests — would knock the team out of any hopes for being a serious title contender?
The latter does also have appeal to Prescott, who legitimately seemed torn at times this week.
“It’s something I want to nip in the butt, make sure I’m healthy and ready to go so I don’t think about it playing and we’re not having these conversations past today,” he said.
Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero