FRISCO, Texas -- Dak Prescott is sitting on a table inside the Dallas Cowboys' weight room. A small green resistance band is attached to his right ankle, and almost mundanely, the quarterback moves his foot side to side.
Three sets, 20 reps each. Then he moves the foot up and down. Three more sets, 20 reps each.
It's four days before the Cowboys play the Carolina Panthers, and Prescott is in the middle of a process that he, the Cowboys' strength and conditioning staff, athletic training staff, coach Mike McCarthy and Prescott's personal physical therapist, Luke Miller, have designed to get the quarterback physically ready to play each week.
The collaboration has Prescott playing the best football of his career as he enters Sunday's pivotal NFC East matchup between the 9-3 Cowboys and 10-2 Philadelphia Eagles at AT&T Stadium (8:20 p.m. ET, NBC). It might not settle a division race, but it could matter if these teams were to meet in the playoffs.
"It truly is a village," Prescott said.
Injuries have marked Prescott's recent career after he started his first 64 games without incident. A dislocated and fractured right ankle in 2020 required two surgeries. A strained lat muscle in his back in training camp in 2021. A calf injury after six games in 2021. A left shoulder surgery after the 2021 season. A right thumb surgery that cost him five games in 2022.
In dealing with the setbacks, Prescott learned the value of his body and the value of his village.
"One thousand percent I'd say they make the pieces stronger," Prescott, 30, said. "No, I wasn't broken, but I was injured ... [When] you're getting older and things are going to tighten up ... I don't want to regress, and I want to make sure I'm hitting my stride.
"You're always looking at greats and what they're doing, and you see guys, like LeBron [James], Tom Brady, have these methods and spend millions of dollars on their body each year, and you wonder why. And it's obvious when they're playing as long as they played at such a high level that that's what they need to do to feel comfortable.
"So for me, it's about making sure just, yeah, I leave no stone unturned."
AFTER A NORMAL Sunday game, Prescott's recovery begins early Monday morning.
Harold Nash, the Cowboys' strength and conditioning coordinator, puts the players through a lower-body lift and a recovery run to start the healing process after a 60-minute NFL game filled with what are essentially hundreds of car crashes.
For Prescott, some games are easier from a health perspective than others, but he does not skip the process.
"I've been around Tom Brady, Matthew Stafford, Andy Dalton, Dak, so I've been fortunate, let me say that," Nash said. "I know those guys all had their separate ways for preparing, and Dak's is as detailed as any I've ever seen. His preparation never stops, whether it's physical or whether it's mental. ... He's not a guy looking to punch the clock. Everything matters."
On most days, Prescott arrives at The Star, the Cowboys' training facility, before 6:30 a.m., but Mondays are a little different. After his lift and run, Prescott and Miller will go over their "inventory" of Prescott's body to know how everything feels. There will be a consultation with athletic training staff, headed by Jim Maurer and Britt Brown.
Miller will ask Prescott about hits he took to see if there is any residual soreness.
"He'll ask me about something because he saw it on the film, and I'm like, 'Nah, that's fine,' and then I wake up Tuesday and like, 'Oh f---, he was right. This does hurt or that does hurt or this hammy is tight.' And so from there, [I] let Luke know, and we work about it.'"
Miller will always ask about the ankle, the shoulder and the thumb. From there, they devise what they will rehab as the week progresses.
"This year, he's felt really good," Miller said. "Some bumps and bruises. Soreness because he's moving a little more, but in all reality he's done really well healthwise. It makes my job easier when everything is firing on all cylinders."
PRESCOTT WAS INTRODUCED to Miller in 2021 as he looked for extra rehab from his ankle surgery at SandersFit Performance Center in Dallas. Miller had done some work with Prescott's best friend and former teammate, running back Ezekiel Elliott, and has experience working with NBA veterans like Myles Turner, Victor Oladipo, as well as Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry.
Prescott said he was "reluctant" to add a full-time therapist outside of the Cowboys because he wasn't sure he needed one, but he decided to give it a chance and saw immediate results.
"I felt like my three toes [on his right foot] weren't active as much as I wanted them to be," Prescott said. "So I started doing this, and in about two weeks, boom. So I was like, 'Hell, I'll keep going to him as is convenient.'"
But it wasn't until that summer when Prescott decided he needed Miller full time. After one practice, Prescott complained about soreness in his right side. He was diagnosed with a latissimus strain, an injury more common for a pitcher than a quarterback.
The Cowboys convened with the New York Yankees' and Texas Rangers' medical teams. Miller had worked with Dr. Keith Meister, the Rangers' team physician, so Prescott asked the Cowboys if he could call Miller to training camp in Oxnard, California.
Prescott said Dr. Meister recommended waiting eight weeks before throwing. The Cowboys' season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was six weeks away.
"I'm like, what the f---?. I'm about to miss the first game," Prescott said. "And Luke's like, 'Trust me, we'll work on this. Let's go.'"
Prescott and Miller were able to compress the recovery timeline, and he was feeling good enough in the rehab process to start Week 1.
"And obviously we know how it worked when we played Tampa -- threw for 400 yards. Probably my third time throwing since the lat. Maybe my fourth time."
Since then, Miller has had a daily presence at The Star, working on Prescott at different parts of each day during the week before and after meetings and practices. Before that, McCarthy and the strength and athletic training staffs had to sign off on Miller being at the facility.
"Luke, he's special," McCarthy said. "He has a gift. And a lot of those individuals do, as far as the understanding of the human body and the stressors -- not only physically, but the emotional, mental component of it."
IF THERE IS something of an off-day, it is Tuesday. Prescott can tend to his personal business and charitable appearances, but he will also get together with Miller for body work. He will get extra stretching or a massage, but there is no lifting or running.
"These guys do need passive rest as well," Miller said, adding, "The focus on Tuesday is not just about recovery but [to] get ready for the week to come."
The big days are Wednesdays and Thursdays. Prescott will arrive before the sun comes up and get in the hot tub and cold tub.
On Wednesday, he will have an upper-body lift in the weight room. When McCarthy arrived in 2020, he asked Prescott how much he bench-pressed. The quarterback told him 375 on the straight bar.
"That's good," McCarthy said. "We're done with the straight bar."
The lift now is designed to be quarterback-centric, focused on rotation and not the glamor muscles.
"It's to maintain his QB-ness," Miller said.
After morning meetings, Miller will stretch Prescott to get his body moving and take another inventory of how the quarterback feels. After practice, Miller and Prescott will go through treatments, including blood flow restriction to his legs.
That session lasts 20-30 minutes.
"It kind of tricks the body to make you think you're working harder and that way you get all of these kind of hormonal responses," Miller said. "The body really just goes into an overdrive form of recovery and up-relegates everything."
Following afternoon meetings, Miller and Prescott will have another hour session of treatment. If they need more, Miller will go to Prescott's house or Prescott will go to Miller's.
ON THURSDAY, PRESCOTT will go through what he and Miller call his "pillars."
"Very Dak-specific things to take care of his ankle, his shoulder, even his thumb-grip strength," Miller said. "Those are the things we don't neglect. Make sure we're checking all the boxes to make sure the ankle's strong, the toes are more mobile. It's not a sexy lift."
It is necessary, though. And during some of that work, Prescott will watch film on his iPad as Miller goes through each part of his body. Prescott often wonders where the time goes.
"I truly don't believe there's enough hours in the day. It's not just my process. That's just how I am with life honestly," Prescott said. "Because I'm a leave-no-stone-unturned guy. When you do that, you want to say, 'Well, hell, I need this balance. I need two to three hours of rest now.' And you look up and you're like, 'If I do that, then I've taken away from this or that.'"
Most Thursday practices are conducted in full pads, so Prescott's pre-practice work is longer. In addition to extra stretching, he will work with medicine balls, throwing them against a wall or pounding them into the ground to work on explosion.
"It's one of those things where if you move quick early, it's a lot easier to move quick later," Miller said. "On Thursdays, you're asking more of your body, so we make sure you're prepared for that."
After practice is another session of blood flow restrictions to his arms, focusing on the rotator cuff and lats.
"You don't need to have issues with your throwing arm," Miller said.
They'll also get together at night if any additional concerns have popped up.
FRIDAY IS PRESCOTT'S favorite day. Maybe that's because the game plan is in, practice is over and his media obligations are mostly finished.
"Just really in a Zen mode all day long," Prescott said.
The Cowboys go through their STAA program that McCarthy brought with him from Green Bay.
"We call it Soft Tissue Activation and Acceleration," McCarthy said. "Kind of a prehab process of making sure they complete their rest and recovery at the end of the week to launch their neurological clocks on a normal Saturday."
After the two-hour STAA program, Prescott and Miller will reconvene to take an inventory of what else he may need, from more stretching to breathing exercises.
SATURDAY IS MILLER'S favorite day.
"Harold, the Cowboys, me, we believe in what we call a neural charge, [a] central nervous system activation," Miller said.
The lifting session last 25-30 minutes, but it is a more high-intensity workout. A lot of plyometric training, power work and jump squats. McCarthy puts the Cowboys through a more rigorous workout on Saturday than most teams, even if it is not in pads. Players have to hit certain speeds on their runs. Everything is tracked by GPS.
"It's, 'If I can move fast on Saturday, my body will be ready to move this fast on Sunday,'" Miller said.
If the Cowboys are on the road, Miller will meet the team at their hotel and have his gear ready for Prescott's arrival. For home games, he will go to Prescott's house after the workout at The Star.
They will go through another blood flow restriction for his legs. Five minutes on, three minutes to recover. They will have one more inventory to make sure they have covered every inch of Prescott's body during the week.
"If we feel good Saturday, we know we're going to feel good on Sunday," Prescott said. "If you're working on something Saturday, like, I've got to work on this now, it's not a panic, but Luke's in a problem-solving mode."
But that has not been the case much this season, as Prescott has remained relatively healthy.
ON GAME DAY, THE work continues for late afternoon and night kickoffs.
Twelve hours before the game, they will go through a quick lift.
"Throw some medicine balls around again to up-regulate his central nervous system," Miller said. "Get a little sweat in. Again, teach the body to move fast now so you can move fast later on."
Four hours before kickoff, Prescott will arrive at the stadium. One more time, he and Miller get together for a prolonged stretching routine. Just outside the locker room, he will incorporate some of the "Dak dance," movements that involve a disassociation of the upper and lower body as part of his training with his personal quarterback trainer, John Beck from 3DQB.
From there, Prescott will go to the field for his on-field throwing work. Miller's work is done. He will watch the game from Prescott's suite at AT&T Stadium. On the road, he will sometimes fly home before the game ends.
Win or lose, Prescott knows he will have his village to get him ready.
"You love the guy with his humility, his leadership, his work ethic," Nash said. "You can go on and on with all the adjectives with that guy. He definitely does have a village. And you have to find what works.
"I think he's found what works for him."