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‘I don’t get distracted’: Dak Prescott handling his business on the field

The Cowboys quarterback isn’t focused on contract talks or Zeke’s holdout

OXNARD, Calif. – The message was delivered clearly and quickly: Quarterback Dak Prescott is focused on leading the Dallas Cowboys, not commenting about running back Ezekiel Elliott’s holdout.

“We’ve talked,” Prescott said here late last week after the team’s first practice of training camp. “But that’s all business. That’s for him to handle.”

Don’t misjudge Prescott. He’s very supportive of the man who has become his good friend since they were members of the Cowboys’ 2016 draft class (“We’ve got a great relationship,” Prescott said), but getting embroiled in Elliott’s contract situation won’t help Prescott prepare for the season, which is the passer’s top priority. Heck, Prescott said he has even blocked out the considerable chatter generated by his contract talks.

The Cowboys and Prescott’s representatives are negotiating an extension that will likely make him the highest-paid player in franchise history as well as one of the most well-compensated quarterbacks in the NFL, finally providing the former Mississippi State star with a contract commensurate with his production. The fact is, Prescott, who’s entering his fourth year as the Cowboys’ starter, is among the best bargains in professional sports.

Since he entered the league, Prescott has guided the Cowboys to a 32-16 record. During that span, only New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady – the winningest signal-caller by far in NFL history – has won more games. Prescott’s 14 fourth-quarter comebacks are an NFL record for a passer in his first three seasons.

The second African American to quarterback the Cowboys to a playoff berth (during the 2003 season, Quincy Carter started every game to help Dallas reach the postseason), Prescott has done it twice. Also a two-time Pro Bowler, Prescott played well last season during a 24-22 victory over the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC wild-card round – the Cowboys’ first playoff win since the 2014 season. Twice, teammates have selected Prescott as a captain. To hear players tell it, Prescott is a lock for yet another term this season.

“Everybody respects him,” said tight end Jason Witten, who came out of retirement in February and rejoined the franchise after one season as the lead analyst on Monday Night Football.

“They want to play for him, they listen to him, they believe in him. … He is the leader of this football team.”

In the final year of his rookie contract, the franchise cornerstone is scheduled to make $2.02 million. Prescott is believed to have made millions as a corporate pitchman – among others, he has marketing deals with Pepsi, Frito-Lay, Oikos, Beats by Dre and Adidas – and has banked additional funds through the league’s performance-based pay system for players who outperform their draft slot, which the former fourth-rounder obviously has done in a big way.

Still, even within the Cowboys organization, there’s no debate that Prescott is woefully underpaid for someone who has performed so well at the game’s most important position. In June, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz, a member of Prescott’s draft class, received a $128 million extension that guarantees him $107 million, including $66 million at signing. The Los Angeles Rams have signaled their intention to reward quarterback Jared Goff – the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 draft – sometime soon, seemingly increasing the pressure on the Cowboys to reach an agreement with Prescott. If Goff’s deal gets done first, Prescott’s representatives would have yet another yardstick by which to measure their client. For Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, the price could keep rising.

Despite apparently being on the verge of receiving a massive payday, Prescott insists he’s unfazed by it all. “It’ll happen when it happens,” he said. “I know I’ll be better by the time the regular season starts.”

Watching Prescott orchestrate the offense with precision in late July, one gets the sense that he’s truly locked in. But what if the negotiations drag on throughout camp, the preseason and into the regular season?

“I don’t get distracted,” Prescott said. “I put my focus into this [preparing to perform at his best]. That’s the easy part for me to do.”

As good as Prescott has been, the Cowboys’ offense the past three seasons has been built around Elliott, a two-time All-Pro who actually has two years remaining on his rookie deal. In this pass-pass-pass era in the NFL, Prescott has not had a 4,000-yard season.

Besides being busy negotiating with Prescott and Elliott, the Cowboys are also having extension talks with No. 1 wide receiver Amari Cooper, who re-energized their passing game last season after he was acquired in a trade with the Oakland Raiders. For a front office, that’s a whole lot of negotiating to do with so many key offensive players as the regular season kickoff draws near. A wrong turn or two could derail things.

Regardless, the Cowboys are in a great position to have a championship season, Prescott believes.

“Each and every year, you have confidence. You say, ‘This is the year,’ ” he said. “[But] you look around this team, this roster that we have, the talent, the leaders that we have … [the goal is] to win everything. And we’ve got the people to do it.”

They just might. And the pursuit of a Super Bowl title is a subject Prescott is always willing to talk about.

Jason Reid is the senior NFL writer at Andscape. He enjoys watching sports, especially any games involving his son and daughter.