FRISCO, Texas – With all due respect to several former players, it's been a while since people perked up when the Cowboys' backup quarterback took the field.
But there was Andy Dalton on Tuesday, guiding the Cowboys' offense to pay dirt during a competitive two-minute drill. Dalton lofted a 40-yard bomb to Ventell Bryant, setting the offense up on the one-yard line. On the next snap, he found Tevin Jones on a short out-route for a game-winning touchdown.
It was a fun reminder of what the Cowboys have in Dalton, who signed a one-year, $3 million contract back in the spring. It was also a reminder that Dalton, a three-time Pro Bowler, could probably still start in this league if he wanted to.
Still, when talking to reporters after practice, Dalton stressed that he chose the Cowboys for specific reasons – and has no regrets about doing so.
"To sign a one-year deal here in Dallas, to be a part of a good organization, a team that is very talented and to be around a great coach, and to be able to stay at home," Dalton said. "I think that all those factors played into it, and I'm excited."
It'll still be a heck of a change from what he's used to. Dalton took the reins in Cincinnati the minute he was drafted No. 35 overall by the Bengals back in 2011. He appeared in 133 of 144 possible games during that stretch, guiding the Bengals to five playoff appearances. He was the face of an NFL franchise, up until his release in April – just one week after the Bengals drafted Joe Burrow No. 1 overall.
In his second stop in the NFL, the Cowboys' hope is that he doesn't actually take the field.
That doesn't seem to bother Dalton, who has already made it clear several times that he understands his primary responsibility.
"Dak's been great ever since I signed here. I feel like our relationship has just gotten better and better, we've gotten to know each other really well," he said. "It's been a fun working relationship. I told him I'm here to help him and serve in any way I can and bring my experience to the quarterback room. I'm excited about the opportunities we're going to have this year."
As someone who has had a lot of backup quarterbacks himself, Dalton said his main responsibility is to be Prescott's No. 1 supporter, to encourage him on the sideline and offering tips about what he's seeing during a game.
With training camp underway, Dalton is also seeing how his experience can also help in the meeting room – not just with Prescott, but with his two younger teammates, Clayton Thorson and Ben DiNucci.
"It could be a rotation. It could be a linebacker position that is tipping off something else," Dalton said. "It may not be covered. It may not be said. But it may be something I would be thinking about, so I kind of bring it up, 'Hey what do you see here. What is going to happen next when this happens?' That just comes with the experience of playing."
It feels reminiscent of 2016, when Prescott was mentored by the likes of Mark Sanchez and Kellen Moore during his first season as the Cowboys' starter. It's probably not something he thought much about during the week-to-week grind of starting, but the past decade has afforded him plenty of expertise.
"It definitely gives you a different perspective on it. To go back and look at it, I have played in a lot of games," he said.
Dalton said it when he originally signed, and he repeated it Tuesday: he knows the position he's in. He may not push for playing time, but he plans to prepare as rigorously as always. And even if he doesn't do more than provide a voice of experience, this experience should do plenty to build toward his future.
"This year, if I'm not playing, the rest my body will get could be a good thing and set me up for the next half of my career," he said.