FRISCO, Texas – The last time Dak Prescott was on a football field during a game, the state of the Cowboys was much more unsettled than the team he will step back onto the field with against the Lions this Sunday.
In Week 1 against the Buccaneers, Michael Gallup was still weeks away from returning from his own injury. Tyler Smith was making his first career start at left tackle for the injured All-Pro Tyron Smith, and we didn't quite know how good the defense could be.
All of those things have been answered in the five weeks, and then some.
Gallup has returned and made an immediate impact in the passing game. Tyler Smith has been very impressive through the first six games of his career. And the defense, well, the defense has an argument for best in the league with impact players at every level.
"Huge," Prescott said. "We obviously got some players back healthy, and we got the young players great reps and great experiences. Obviously had some guys come in on the offensive line and created more depth on both sides of the ball."
With so many questions being answered, and the Cowboys learning so much about themselves without their franchise quarterback, what did Prescott learn while he was sidelined?
"A lot honestly," he said. "A lot of things that I wouldn't necessarily share. But I know it's going to help and help this team moving forward. Whether it be with the players, whether it be with the coaches, communicating with the defense, the team, making sure they stay together and understand that we're in this together."
Prescott said he has been able to see things from a different perspective than he was when he suffered his season-ending ankle injury in 2020. During that time, he was away from the team while trying to rehab that injury.
This time however, he has been visible on the sidelines during games doing his best coaching stances with a headset and even going as far to pass out water bottles. One person that might miss seeing Prescott on the sideline is Micah Parsons.
While, yes, Parsons is absolutely looking forward to having Prescott back on the field with the offense, he did admit he will miss being able to celebrate with Prescott after a big defensive play on the sideline.
"I'd say the big difference is I won't be able to come to him on the sideline when I'm [celebrating,]" Parsons said as Prescott stood next to him during his interview. "He's going to be running out there on the field, but we're going to get a small dap-up."
"It's going to be so much fun seeing him back out there. I know real competitors; they itch to get back on the field. And I think that's why his rehab was so intense. I never saw him take a day off."
Naturally the question now becomes just how well Prescott will get acclimated after missing over a month of time. The Cowboys ran the ball exceptionally well during Prescott's absence under Cooper Rush and could allow him to ease his way back against a Lions' defense that has struggled with their run defense.
"There's no concern," Ezekiel Elliott said of the offense finding their rhythm. "But I also think the run game helps with that. It helps slow things down and soften up that defense and helps play action."
Both Elliott and Tony Pollard have both helped carry the offensive load behind an offensive line that has been strong despite all of the uncertainty to begin the season. Though with Michael Gallup now back in fold and CeeDee Lamb beginning to hit his stride in recent weeks, Prescott's return could elevate the offense and balance it out more.
"We can grow," Lamb said. "I feel like this is the only opportunity that we've had with [Gallup] and Dak back… I feel like I have great confidence in everybody in this locker room. And I know they're going to put their best foot forward every Sunday, especially this one."
And as for Prescott himself and his long-awaited return, it's simply about being present and in the moment.
"It's about staying where my feet are, honestly" he said. "And that's how it's been all the way through this injury."