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Spagnola: The Best To Happen Saturday Night


ARLINGTON, Texas – Here is the absolute best thing very few people saw here Saturday night at AT&T Stadium.

And this is not to discount Cooper Rush, with his performance in the Cowboys' 20-14 loss to the Houston Texans in preseason Game 3, creating a backup quarterback controversy most assumed the job already was that of Garrett Gilbert's.

And not to minimize the Cowboys defensive performance, save the defense not reacting to the Mojo moment three plays into the game when Gilbert suffered a strip-sack, lost fumble and the Texans, from the Cowboys 23, scored a touchdown seven plays later. Why the defense shutout the Texans for the remainder of the first half when the majority of the first teamers were playing. Didn't give up a third-down conversion in the first half (0 of 6) and after giving up 18 yards rushing that first possession, held Houston to just 25 on the next 10 carries.

Or the fact that for a preseason game, there were 72,720 here, the majority waving their towels and cheering as if this were the season opener, intent on making up for limited access during last year's COVID-affected season.

No, this took place around 4:30 p.m. or so when Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott emerged from the tunnel, initially running the full length of the field, walking across the back of the end zone, and then running – OK, a fast jog – the 100 yards back. All before folks were allowed into the stadium. Before the real warmups began. These ere his reps.

And what took place over like the next 45 minutes would have contradicted the fact that on Oct. 11 of last year Dak suffered that dislocated and compound fracture of his right ankle or that he has not taken a competitive snap in pads while nursing that strained latissimus shoulder muscle revealed back on July 28 in Oxnard, Calif.

You'd have never known.

So as Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said during Saturday night's Countdown to Kickoff pregame show of Dak, "If we were playing tonight against Tampa, he'd be starting. That really has been the case over the past couple of weeks. There is just no need with the kind of work he got in before we went to California and then the work he got in in the early days in California, there is no reason to push it.

"If they said rest it, then let's double rest it."

Yep, that good.

This was Dak's time, first working up a good sweat continuing his ankle rehab routine, on and off the resistance cords with Cowboys associate trainer Britt Brown, starting with backpedaling 15 yards, then stepping side-to-side to his left, then to his right, then fast backpedals, then forward lunges and backward lunges, followed by high-stepping lunges and 45-degree lunges.

Let me tell you, there is nothing wrong with that surgically-repaired ankle.

Then came the planned throwing session, around 30 minutes, a total of 52 throws to the likes of T.J. Vasher, still on the non-football injury list, and Ezekiel Elliott, which qualified as his workout since Zeke is not going to take a preseason game snap this summer.

"He hit the target with a number of throws," Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy said. "I had a chance to watch it, I thought he looked good and the most important thing is how he feels afterward. I thought he had another good day and the opportunity to go back to back is important. So, still continue to build up on the level of throws."

When McCarthy found out Dak completed 51 of 52 throws, he added, "That's too many. He was supposed to throw 46 to 50."

And as I like to say, well, that's Dak.

Most of his throws, just like that last week in Oxnard, were 10-to-15-to-20 yards. Slants. Swing passes. Outs. Ins. Comebacks. Wheel routes to Zeke. Simulating a smoke screen. Shotgun throws. Under center throws. He would drop back handing off to Zeke. He would handoff to Zeke, then carrying out his fake running hard around end as if he still had the ball.

You name it, Dak ran it. Threw it, all under the watchful eye of quarterbacks coach Doug Nussmeier, carrying the script of throws in his hand. Threw those passes with authority, too.

We continue to hear this term _abundance of caution_ in reference to COVID-19 protocols. Well, from the looks of this afternoon's workout, that is the reason why Dak will not take a preseason-game snap, though expected to ramp up some team-period throws this coming week in practice.

Abundance of caution.

Sure, Dak was throwing against air in his pregame workout, but think about this. Had he played in the game, Dak probably would have thrown like 10 to 12 passes and then been done. His workout, short of having to read defenses and sort through coverages, was probably more intense than had he played in the game a series or two.

"If you look at Dak's career, and you look at the number of snaps he's had in the years he's been in the NFL, missing a few repetitions is not your greatest concern," Jones said.

Nope, it's not As the Cowboys found out last year, doing whatever you can to have Dak available for all 17 games has to be their greatest concern.

So, no sense playing chicken with the devil.