FRISCO, Texas (AP) — Dak Prescott smiled without saying a word when a reporter wondered aloud why the star quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys didn’t hold out for a new contract, a strategy that just led to a $90 million extension for backfield mate Ezekiel Elliott.
The 2016 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year is going into the final season of his rookie deal — a year ahead of Elliott — while trailing only New England’s Tom Brady in victories since entering the league and coming off his first playoff win.
Yet Prescott has never shown even a slight interest in staying away to try to get a contract that will be worth more than twice as much as Elliott’s annually, assuming the two-time Pro Bowler and the Cowboys find that common ground.
As with Elliott, the deal figures to get done. In the meantime, Prescott wants to push the Cowboys past the divisional round of the playoffs before they reach the 25th anniversary of their previous trip to the NFC championship game and beyond.
There’s one year left for that breakthrough since Dallas won the last of a proud franchise’s five Super Bowl titles during the 1995 season. Prescott’s pursuit starts Sunday with the opener at home against the New York Giants.
“I mean, obviously I want to see it done,” Prescott said of a contract that will be the richest in franchise history when it happens. “At this point, my focus is all on the Giants, the Giants defense, what this team needs to do to win the game and then next week we’ll go to the next opponent.
“I don’t want to blur my mind or distract myself any bit with thinking about those talks or thinking about what’s going on when I’ve got enough on my plate to handle.”
That doesn’t mean the deal can’t get done during the season. It just means Prescott probably won’t be as involved in the talks as he was over the summer. The 26-year-old has left little doubt that he will be the face of the franchise, perhaps for another 10 years.
Prescott accomplished that by showing his leadership skills even before 10-year starter Tony Romo was injured in a preseason game a few months after the Cowboys drafted Prescott in the fourth round, having failed in their pursuit of two other QBs earlier in the 2016 draft.
When Romo went down with another back injury at Seattle, Prescott came off the bench and converted a third-and-long with a completion on his first play. Jason Witten, who came out of retirement this year for what will be a club-record 16th season, still remembers that play.
“Amidst all the contract stuff, the guy comes to work ready,” said Witten, who watched his best friend in Romo lose his job when Prescott led the Cowboys to a franchise-record 11 straight wins and the top seed in the NFC before a divisional loss to Green Bay in 2016.
“He’s ready every single day. Ask any guy in the locker room, they’ll run through a wall for him. It’s been a true joy for me at this point in my career to have a young teammate come in at that position and to see him take each step.”
Prescott and Elliott formed a rare pair in leading an offense from the first snap of their first season together. They missed Witten last year, particularly inside the 20-yard line. Receiver Amari Cooper was a huge boost in a midseason trade.
Now the Cowboys have added one of Aaron Rodgers’ favorite targets in Green Bay, Randall Cobb, as the slot receiver with Cole Beasley’s departure to Buffalo in free agency. Michael Gallup, who was solid as a rookie, appears poised for a big improvement in his second year.
Center Travis Frederick returns after missing last season with a nerve disorder, re-solidifying an offensive line that has been among the best in the league but slipped last year. Prescott was sacked 56 times, second-most in the NFL.
Three years after starting against the Giants when many figured the Cowboys were on their way to another lost season without an injured Romo, Prescott is trying to meet lofty expectations instead of surpass modest ones.
The Cowboys lost that game by a point. They didn’t lose again for three months.
“It’s not even comparable to the last three years,” Prescott said of his confidence going into his fourth season. “Just from a knowledge standpoint, how comfortable I am in my game. So to compare my confidence right now to any of the three years isn’t fair.”
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