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FOXBOROUGH, Mass.— Dak Prescott hobbled into the postgame press conference room, his smile big and his shoes mismatched.
On his left foot, he wore a trademark Jordan sneaker. On his right lower leg: a walking boot.
“Let’s get the elephant in the room,” he told reporters after a 35-29 overtime win at the New England Patriots. “Let’s knock it out.”
Injuries didn’t plague Prescott throughout the three hours and 25 minutes of game time. But on the game’s final play, a 35-yard touchdown to wide receiver CeeDee Lamb, Prescott rolled out to escape the pocket. He took more than half a dozen steps to his right, balancing on his right leg as he hurled a pass down the right sideline past a covered tight end Dalton Schultz and to the streaking Lamb. The pass landed as hoped; Prescott, less so.
— Jori Epstein (@JoriEpstein) October 17, 2021
It was on that play, the Dallas Cowboys said, that Prescott appears to have strained his right calf. He’ll be reevaluated with an MRI on Monday.
“The last throw, (I) came down funny,” Prescott said. “That’s what it was. We’ll get it checked out. I’ll be fine, can promise you that. Great timing going into the bye week. I’ll be fine.”
The injury severity wasn’t clear, Prescott jovial as ever in his postgame interview, and subsequently headed to see friends and family before boarding the team bus. But even as he remained unflinching shoulders up, Prescott was hobbled. The boot was clunky; his walk was uneven. The Cowboys’ immediate bye week will no doubt help any recovery timeline, but any setback would add to what’s been a tumultuous 13 months.
Prescott suffered a compound fracture and dislocation of his right ankle in Week 5 of the 2020 season, requiring emergency surgery to clean the wound and repair the fracture that night. His rehabilitation process was steady but slow-progressing over the course of nearly six months. During that process, last December, he underwent a subsequent operation to further stabilize his right ankle.
By training camp, Prescott’s warmups remained intricate, but mental and physical shackles were long gone. He was permitted to face a live rush and he could scramble unconcerned.
Then, the first day of padded training camp practices, Prescott suffered a latissimus strain near his throwing shoulder. For four weeks, he was limited. His opening-week performance suggested history of neither, Prescott completing an audibled 28-yard pass play on his first throw back and ultimately throwing for 403 yards and three touchdowns in a 31-29 loss to Tom Brady’s squad.
So what went through his mind when he felt “a little pain” after the play?
“I was just like, ‘No way,’” Prescott said. “Life keeps throwing punches and I’m going to keep throwing them back. It’s part of it, part of this game. It’s a physical game we play but I’ll be fine. Got a lot of confidence in myself, the medical team and as I said, I feel good. Obviously, this is precaution.
“It doesn’t hurt as bad when you score and win the game, so all that’s a plus.”
Dak Prescott says he came down funny on final play of game. He’s now in a protective boot with what team says is a right calf strain that will be reevaluated.
“Life keeps throwing punches and I’ll keep throwing them back. It doesn’t hurt as bad when you score and win the game.” pic.twitter.com/4JEq4WEIxo
— Jori Epstein (@JoriEpstein) October 18, 2021
Prescott said he didn’t believe the injury was severe enough that he would have exited the game if it wasn’t over anyway on that play.
“I think adrenaline would have been up and may not even have felt it at the time,” Prescott said. “But the time you relax, it’s like, ‘Oh, there it is.’”
Despite the lingering uncertainty of the injury, Prescott performed historically as he completed 36-of-51 pass attempts for 445 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. Prescott’s 445 passing yards were the most ever gained against a Bill Belichick-coached team, surpassing Peyton Manning’s 438 yards vs. the Patriots in 2014.
The Cowboys’ 567 total offensive yards were also the most a Belichick defense had ever allowed in his 27-year career.
“When you have a group like this, you believe in yourselves no matter what,” Prescott said. “No matter what’s against you. We proved that again tonight.”
He joked his calf strain was simply an attempt to give the media a point of conversation during the bye week.
“I’ll be fine,” Prescott reiterated as he left the interview. “Have fun with it.”
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Dak Prescott wore a walking boot after Cowboys' OT win vs. Patriots