FRISCO, Texas – It doesn't sound like Micah Parsons is any worse for wear after a brief bout with COVID-19.
If anything, maybe he could have used the time off.
"I think from a standpoint of comeback, I feel great," Parsons said Wednesday. "I had a whole bunch of rest. I had an extra bye week some of the guys didn't get. So I feel refreshed."
Parsons was added to the Cowboys' COVID protocol exactly one week ago, giving him time to overcome his symptoms. He told reporters he felt fatigue, muscle ache, a sore throat and congestions. But after watching the Week 18 win against the Eagles on his couch with some chicken wings, he said he's ready to go.
"I liked how I played off my last bye week, so hopefully we can follow up with that," he said.
It was a while ago, but Parsons is right about that. The rookie was visibly frustrated by his performance in the Week 6 win at New England, and he responded after the bye week with a game-high 11 tackles and four tackles for loss in the 20-16 win against Minnesota.
Parsons played off-ball linebacker a lot that night, rather than rush the passer. Of course, only the Cowboys will know the specifics of their game plan until Sunday, but that is an intriguing idea against an opponent in San Francisco that runs the ball as well as anyone in the NFL.
"When the run game's that good, everything is small detailed out," Parsons said. "We're going to have to really focus in and make sure we go out there to play our best football."
The 49ers announced their ability to run the ball to a national audience in their playoff-clinching win last weekend. It's been a season-long trend, too, as they were only held below 100 total rushing yards on four occasions, and they topped 150 as a team six different times. They're seventh in the league in rushing yards per game, and they're fifth in rushing efficiency.
"Obviously, the key is stop the run and then let the monsters eat on third down," Parsons said. "You've got to win first and second down."
Regardless of how he is deployed, Parsons will have to play a huge role in limiting this 49ers offense. It's strange to say that about a rookie playing in his first-ever NFL playoff game. But as Parsons himself said, the time for rookie designations is about over – especially for a guy who has been in the middle of the NFL Defensive Player of the Year conversation for the past two months.
"I think the whole rookie phase is about over," he said. "I've got a lot of games in so far. I think it's just another game. Another game where you've got to hone in on detail."
While he awaits kickoff, Parsons is getting some perspective on what it takes to succeed in the postseason. He got lunch with DeMarcus Ware on Tuesday, and he said the potential Hall of Famer impressed on him what to expect.
"I got to talk to him about the preparation and what it takes, the mentality that comes with playoffs and things like that," he said. "I thought that was interesting. He helped me with how to prepare for the best so that way I keep my head low and I can stay focused on the things I need to focus on."
Ware tallied 23 tackles and 7.5 sacks across eight career playoff games, including a Super Bowl run during his time in Denver that saw him collect 3.5 sacks and 12 quarterback hits in one postseason. As far as postseason mentors go, Parsons could do a lot worse.
Starting Sunday, he can write his own playoff legacy. It sounds like he's ready for it.
"Going to be the same preparation we've been doing all season," he said. "The only difference is this will dictate if we're going home or not and I hope we're not going home. This is going to be a good little stretch we got and I'm excited for it."