OXNARD, Calif. – Dak Prescott and the Cowboys are looking forward while holding onto a singular moment from the past as motivation: last season's first-round home playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
"What I think about is just that last drive. Not getting the job done," running back Ezekiel Elliott said. "That's what the season came down to."
When the Cowboys arrived in Oxnard for training camp, mental conditioning consultant Chad Bohling gave a video presentation reminding the team that their frustration can serve as positive fuel.
"(Chad) showed a video of the press conferences – my press conference, Zeke – and just kind of a video to make sure that we reflect and keep that in our mind," Prescott said. "(Cornerback) Anthony Brown broke down the group yesterday (at practice) and mentioned it as well.
"That feeling is a nasty feeling and one that when you think about it, you want to go work. You want to go do whatever you can to make sure that you don't feel that way again. That's what we're out here trying to do."
Prescott is doing his best to lead the way through the offense's transition,
During the five-week break between minicamp and training camp, he and a few Cowboys skill players went down to Miami to build on-field chemistry and off-field camaraderie.
That process is ongoing. An example was the pick-six Prescott threw to Brown in Wednesday's opening camp practice while looking for rookie receiver Jalen Tolbert.
"It was a great learning moment for Tolbert and for myself as well," he said. "For that moment to happen and happen so early and be able to talk through it and for him to say, 'Come back to me -- that won't happen again,' those are the things that you're testing out right now. That's the growth and that's the mentality that you want to hear from a young guy."
On a personal level, Prescott is working to refine all aspects of his game, including footwork fundamentals and throwing from different arm angles. That process was slowed last year by his rehab from the 2020 ankle injury and then a strained throwing shoulder in the first week of the 2021 camp.
"I'm just trying to stack good days on top of good days, get in a good rhythm and a good sync with these receivers and these young guys and guys that have got to step up and make plays," he said. "It's been a great two days so far."
Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy has always believed an offense should be built around the quarterback. As he said Thursday, "Defense wins championships, but the Super Bowl is won by the quarterback, if you just look at that statistically. That's my opinion. That is how I view the journey on how you prepare the team and what the team needs to look like.
"I think he (Prescott) is a guy emulates exactly what you are looking for because he is always working to improve in all the areas," McCarthy said.
As the franchise quarterback, Prescott is well aware of the team's tradition at the position. He says he's "trying to fill the shoes of those guys that have come before me and do something for this organization that hasn't been done in a long time."
Time has passed quickly. Prescott is already entering Year 7 with the Cowboys. Friday is his 29th birthday.
"Golden birthday," he said. "I plan for this to be the golden year."