The Dallas Cowboys have moved past 2020, and that includes Dak Prescott.
The quarterback completed his first practice of training camp Thursday, which doubled as his first session of camp following his significant ankle injury suffered last season. That injury, of course, quickly derailed Dallas' 2020 campaign, but with Prescott back in action, it's full steam ahead. No looking back allowed.
"I've definitely buried it," Prescott said of the injury. "Being honest, obviously, you want to get a few days and a few week or so ahead of you and then see if there's residual pain or anything like that, soreness. Obviously, after the first day, it wasn't much. It was just good to get back out there fully moving, being a full participant and everything.
"It's exciting just being back with the guys. It's the last thing I'm thinking about. But obviously, just gonna see where I'm at as I continue to go on. To make sure that I have the right plan to take care of it."
Prescott doesn't want to forget about the injury entirely. Instead, it serves as a reminder of the challenges he can overcome and to be grateful for a new opportunity to continue playing football, with Prescott telling reporters he sees his ability to return as "a blessing."
Completing one practice is great, but it's far from playing in and finishing a game. Prescott won't get a chance to test the ankle in game conditions until early August when his Cowboys travel to Canton to face the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Hall of Fame Game.
While most starters see minimal playing time (if any) for the majority of the preseason, Prescott might receive more snaps than usual in order to get acclimated to live action. There's a risk with added time spent in an otherwise meaningless contest, but there's also value in helping Prescott move past any trepidation he might experience in an NFL game following an injury as gruesome as the one he suffered in 2020.
Consider the endeavor a balancing act.
"I definitely want to play," Prescott said. "As far as giving you a number or a quantity of how much I need to, I just want to obviously get back out there and get some reps before it's real, just to have a live defense coming at me, hopefully not taking too many licks because I've got great protection, but that's part of the game and I think that'll obviously be great to get up from that, wipe it off and just be another process instead of burying the injury. I think it'll be huge.
"Obviously, not having the preseason last year, me and Zack Martin were just talking about it, that's a big thing is getting those preseason reps, just getting some practice -- exhibition reps underneath you before it really matters -- goes a long way. I think I need it. I think this team needs it. I know it'll help us once it's through."
The Cowboys will closely monitor Prescott's status throughout this camp and preseason, doing everything possible to maximize his chances of hitting the field fully healthy by the time Week 1 arrives. By then, Prescott plans on being mentally and physically prepared to get off to a fast start. With plenty of eyes (and cameras) again on Dallas, the Cowboys can't plan for or expect anything less.