‘We are all heartbroken’: Dak Prescott’s gruesome ankle injury leaves Cowboys with much to process

ARLINGTON, Texas — CeeDee Lamb grabbed his phone from his locker right after his postgame shower.

The rookie receiver wanted to freshen up after his eight-catch, 124-yard performance.

Then he was anxious to text the quarterback responsible for 103 of those yards.

“That I appreciate everything he has done for me as far as being a rookie receiver and learning, you know, the offense,” Lamb said a few minutes after messaging Prescott. “He has put in countless of times and effort …and I can’t thank him enough. And I kinda told him that.

“We know what is at stake. And I told him we are going to hold it down till we get to see him again on the field with us.”

Lamb acknowledged he averted his gaze the last time he saw Prescott on the field beside him.

The Cowboys quarterback who had started all 69 games since Dallas selected him in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL draft had scrambled with 6:46 remaining in the third quarter. Prescott saw a lane up the middle, tucked the ball, and zigzagged 9 yards toward the left sideline. Giants safety Logan Ryan wrapped Prescott up for what seemed like a routine tackle. But the two players’ legs tangled.

Prescott’s right ankle, the team later confirmed, suffered a compound fracture and dislocation. Prescott was splinted with a sterile dressing before he was carted off, Cowboys orthopaedic surgeon Mark Muller riding out with him to a waiting ambulance. Immediate surgery at a local hospital was scheduled for Sunday night. Doctors needed to wash Prescott’s wound and fix the fracture.

“My heart just sunk to the bottom of my stomach,” cornerback Anthony Brown said of the emotional reaction to the play. “I just felt like, man… I feel bad for him. He goes through a lot. That man battles through a lot of stuff even off the field, too.”

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott is consoled by teammates as he leaves the field on a cart after beig injured on a tackle by New York Giants cornerback Logan Ryan during the third quarter of an NFL football game on Sunday, Oct. 11, 2020, in Arlington. (Photo: Smiley N. Pool, AP)

Silence rushed over an AT&T Stadium crowd of 25,147. Jones family members embraced from the team ownership suite. More than a dozen Cowboys teammates flanked the medical team attending to Prescott on the field, still more seen praying on the bench. Then they rushed to console Prescott as he sat on the back of the medical cart, his body shaking, tears drenching his face as he bit down on a white Gatorade towel to fight the pain.

Giants players and coaches, too, wished Prescott as well as the cart rolled past their sideline. Prescott raised a fit to thank a clapping audience, then kissed his finger and pointed skyward, the same tribute he gestures for his late mother each time he scores.

Dak celebrates every touchdown by kissing his finger and pointing up to the sky, a tribute to his late mother Peggy.

No different during the worst moment of his pro career. As he enters tunnel, Dak points up to sky
(via @dallascowboys)pic.twitter.com/TBzcbpxeWS

“I feel terrible,” Ryan said. “He's trying to stiff-arm me while I'm trying to tackle him and punch the ball out. … He's trying to show up for work and trying to lead his team and trying to get a lucrative contract and tried to come out and prove it this year. For him to come out here and get this type of injury, that's why I feel like that.

“Dak, I hope he gets $500 million when he comes back. He deserves it.”

The Cowboys continued their division game with the Giants, Andy Dalton leading a game-winning drive for a 37-34 victory.

But the emotions stemming from Prescott’s injury lingered long past the quarterback's arrival at the hospital and the game clock expiring. The Cowboys’ pride that they would win for Prescott could only console so much.

“I am struggling a little bit right now,” running back Ezekiel Elliott said, at a loss for words when asked to reframe his emotions toward what Dalton will bring the offense. “Just looked, felt unreal. You’ve seen how durable ‘4’ has been throughout his whole career here and just how tough he is.

“It sucks to see a warrior go down.”

Giants offensive coordinator Jason Garrett felt similarly.

Garrett returned to AT&T Stadium for the first time since December, the last of his 237 games as Cowboys head coach. The reunion wasn’t overlooked. Garrett emerged from the tunnel one hour before kickoff to the waiting handshake and embrace of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and vice president Stephen Jones.

Garrett strode to midfield, too, before kickoff to greet Prescott as he cycled through his warmup throws. The two clasped hands, embraced, then playfully shoved each other as they had so often during the four years Garrett was Prescott’s head coach.

Jason Garrett says hello to Dak Prescott pic.twitter.com/cnZ5aNIZeb

So even as Garrett’s offense was posting its best performance of a young season, he shifted his concern to Prescott as the quarterback absorbed the magnitude of his first serious career injury. Garrett found McCarthy on the field, placing an arm on his successor’s back.

“I really feel sad for Dak,” Garrett told USA TODAY Sports by text Sunday evening. “He’s such a great player and a really special person! It just makes you sick. There’s no doubt in my mind that he’ll face this challenge head on and come back stronger and better than ever!

“Dak’s a true inspiration to so many and I put myself at the top of that list. I love him to death and wish him a full and speedy recovery.”

Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy, who improved to 2-3 with Dallas, echoed the sentiment.

“I feel terrible for him,” McCarthy said. “He was having a tremendous year. In the short time working with him, he’s made such an impression on me. He’s clearly the leader of this football team. I have no doubt that he’ll bounce back from this. This will be just a part of his great story.

“This will be just another chapter of his great story.”

Prescott entered Sunday with 1,690 passing yards, an NFL record through the first four weeks of a season, and 12 total touchdowns. He said after last week's loss to the Browns that he would trade all his stats for wins as Dallas fell to 1-3. Even so, Prescott had set multiple NFL records before his gruesome injury, including posting more than 450 yards each of the three prior contests.

Sunday, just before halftime, Prescott caught his first career receiving touchdown to send Dallas into halftime with a lead for the first time in four weeks. Prescott’s face lit up as he caught an 11-yard toss from receiver Cedrick Wilson. The devastating scene half a quarter late unfolded in stark contrast.

Players across the league, from Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes to the Browns' Baker Mayfield, tweeted prayers and good wishes to Prescott. So, too, did Cowboys Hall of Famers including Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin. 

Shortly before Prescott's late mother Peggy died of colon cancer in 2013, she left her sons a three-part mantra. She told Tad to ensure the brothers always “fight” and Prescott, her youngest, to instill “faith.”

Tad—who recently moved to a North Texas home nearby the quarterback—repeated those words when he tweeted a photo beside his younger brother in a hospital bed.

“God is good, and he’ll be back STRONGER than ever,” Tad Prescott wrote, along with a tweet of Dak Prescott smiling through red, puffy eyes. “I [expletive] guarante3 IT. Let’s go @dak continue to walk by #FAITH & I’ll make sure you continue to FIGHT.”

Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence quoted a biblical imperative that “the Lord won’t put you through anything you can’t bear,” adding he “can’t wait” until Prescott returns.

Prescott signed a $31.4 million franchise tag in June, an amount that’s fully guaranteed for this season but guarantees him no role with the Cowboys after 2020.

In a statement, Jerry Jones reiterated the Cowboys’ commitment to Prescott.

“We are all heartbroken for Dak,” Jones’ statement said. “The outpouring of messages that I have received regarding his setback speaks volumes to the respect and admiration that he has earned from his teammates, former Cowboys players and Cowboys supporters everywhere.

“I know this young man very well. I know the personal hardship and strife that he has faced, dealt with and overcome in his young life. And I know of no one who is more prepared, from the perspective of mental and emotional toughness and determination, than Dak Prescott to respond and recover from this challenge that has been put in front of him.

“We have no doubt that he will return to the position of leadership and purpose that he brings to our team.”

Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein.

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