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|OXNARD Nick Vannett Jersey , Calif. (AP) Dak Prescott’s best test yet as the new face of the Cowboys came two days after owner Jerry Jones once again declared that all Dallas players will stand for the national anthem and even said they wouldn’t be afforded the alternative of staying in the locker room.
The star quarterback didn’t pause or stammer. He didn’t stop himself to consider what his peers might think. He made it clear he will stand, and doesn’t think it’s right to do otherwise.
”Whether I was wearing the star or not, whether I was playing for Jerry Jones, Stephen Jones or any other owner, I believe in what I believe in and that’s that,” Prescott said Friday in his first session with reporters at training camp.
Jerry Jones held his usual camp-opening news conference Wednesday, and said his usual things about the anthem, and then some. Son Stephen Jones, executive vice president of personnel, suggested a day later that the Cowboys would cut any player who stayed in the locker room.
The option of staying off the field was part of a policy owners approved in May, but was put on hold not long after The Associated Press revealed that the Miami Dolphins would consider suspending players up to four games for kneeling or otherwise protesting during the anthem.
Just as he did when he showed up two years ago as the overshadowed third quarterback on Tony Romo’s team, Prescott offered his opinion plainly and simply, and in so many words. There are countless more people listening now.
”He knows how important that is to be one of the faces of the team and he always does exactly what you’d expect Corey Linsley Jersey , to a script,” offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. ”It’s not forced. It’s just part of him.”
Prescott replaced an injured Romo in 2016 and had one of the best rookie seasons for a quarterback in NFL history while leading Dallas to an NFC-best 13 wins and ultimately sending Romo into retirement.
Now 15-year tight end Jason Witten and franchise touchdown catch leader Dez Bryant are gone. The former Mississippi State standout is the leading voice, and not hesitating to use it.
”I’d never protest during the anthem, and I don’t think that’s the time or the venue to do so,” Prescott said while adding that he respected the right of others to protest. ”We know about social injustice. I’m up for taking a next step, whatever that step may be for action and not just kneeling.”
Prescott didn’t have any immediate specifics for that community action, but it’ll be a few months before he can concentrate on it fully. Right now he’s trying to get the Cowboys back to the playoffs after his encore fell flat.
Dallas missed the postseason at 9-7 last season, clouded by the fight over the six-game suspension that Prescott’s fellow rookie sensation, running back Ezekiel Elliott, finally had to serve halfway through the year.
”It was just a lot of mental mistakes, a lot of things that I feel like I don’t normally do,” said Prescott, who had 13 interceptions a year after throwing just four while setting an NFL rookie record for passer rating. ”I feel like I thought a lot about different things last year within the games and that’s something I’m going to try to eliminate.”
The Cowboys are unproven at tight end and receiver after Witten retired and the Cowboys decided to release Bryant in a cost-cutting move. Cole Beasley has the longest Dallas tenure among the receivers Ty Sambrailo Jersey , and Terrance Williams is the only other pass-catcher who was on the roster for Prescott’s rookie season.
”Really last year was a struggle. He had some breakdowns at other spots that made it tough on him,” Beasley said. ”Good or bad or ugly, he’s the same person through and through. That’s what you want from your quarterback. Because that’s how it is in games.”
Elliott doesn’t have a possible suspension looming this season, and at the moment an offensive line that was an issue a year ago is healthy with a new piece in second-round pick Connor Williams. The former Texas player is working as the starting left guard in camp.
Not long before coming to California, Prescott spent time with some of his untested receiving corps in Florida. Now he goes about figuring out life without Witten and Bryant.
”We’re past that,” he said. ”We had the whole (offseason practices) and minicamps to kind of get over that stage. Those are guys I’ve said before you can’t replace. But when you get out here, you just see the youthfulness that we have, how young this team is and the energy.”
With a new leading voice.
Not being in the limelight has never bothered Kyle Van Noy.
He didn’t start a NFL game until his third season when he was with the Detroit Lions, and even then was thought of as a role player.
So now being considered one of the leaders on a Patriots defense that is on the cusp of making a return trip to the Super Bowl seems somewhat out of place for the fourth-year linebacker as he heads into Sunday’s AFC championship game against Jacksonville.
”I’ve been in so many situations since I’ve been here,” Van Noy said of the increased role he’s had in New England.
”I mean going deep in the playoffs last year and then playing all of the games this year. … Each and every game there’s different situations, different scenarios that come up. So I would say that my awareness has gone up a lot since I’ve been here.”
The same could be said about his value.
When linebacker Dont’a Hightower went down with a season-ending torn pectoral muscle in the Patriots’ win over the Falcons in Week 7, it left a void in the side of a defense that entered 2017 young and inexperienced up front.
New England had already given up 30 or more points three times to that point and was ranked 23rd in the NFL in scoring defense, allowing 23.7 points per game.
Van Noy began the season starting at outside linebacker alongside Elandon Roberts in the middle and Hightower at the other outside spot.
But when Hightower went down Derek Watt Jersey , the coaching staff asked Van Noy to handle multiple roles, playing both on the edge and middle of the field at times.
Safety and defensive captain Devin McCourty said that the 26-year-old showed glimpses of that versatility even last season.
It’s why it wasn’t strange for him to see Van Noy tackle the responsibility of receiving the defensive play call from the sideline, another role that he’s inherited with Hightower out.
He flourished in them all, and over the final nine weeks of the season New England got stingier on defense.
By the end of the season it was allowing just 18.5 points per game – the fifth-best mark in the league.
Van Noy missed three of the final four games with a calf injury, but still finished the regular season third on the team with 73 tackles and second with 5+ sacks. Van Noy’s sack total was just a half-sack short of Hightower’s career-high of six in 2014.
”It helps our defense out a lot, and he’s one of a lot of guys on our defense that have been able to play different positions that allow us to do different things defensively,” McCourty said. ”He’s been a leader, he’s run the huddle kind of since he’s been in there.”
Coach Bill Belichick said continuity and execution has improved all over the defense, with lots of contributions from Van Noy and others such as Trey Flowers, Marquis Flowers, Adam Butler, Deatrich Wise Jr. and Ricky Jean Francois.
”Some of the guys that are playing now weren’t playing. If we had had this conversation in the middle of the season, you wouldn’t be asking about them Cornellius Carradine Jersey ,” Belichick said.
”They’ve stepped into different roles and they’ve worked together more, gotten a better feel for each other, execution’s better, so it’s good.”
Van Noy said any success he’s had is simply a product of his environment.
”There are a lot of superstar defensive players that aren’t even talked about,” he said. ”When I was with the Detroit Lions there was a guy named DeAndre Levy who never made a Pro Bowl, but who everybody knew, if you played football, who he was. There are situations like that all the time. And there’s teams that have really good defenses that aren’t talked about. We’re one of them.”
NOTES: The Patriots placed defensive back and special teamer Jonathan Jones on injured reserve. They also announced the signing of receiver Bernard Reedy. Reedy was a member of the Patriots’ practice squad.
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