After a two-game absence, Andy Dalton will be back under center for Dallas Sunday at Minnesota. Dalton’s return should be a welcome sight for the Cowboys, who have slummed it with seventh-round rookie Ben DiNucci and ex-practice-squadder Garrett Gilbert at quarterback the past two games. In addition to a concussion that knocked him out of Week 7 at Washington (the result of an illegal, ejection-worthy hit from reckless linebacker Jon Bostic), Dalton also battled COVID, which the veteran described as a “frustrating” experience.
“The COVID, it hit me hard the first day I had it, then it gradually started feeling better,” said Dalton. “It was a crazy three weeks, but I’m glad to be on the other side of it.” According to ESPN Cowboys reporter Todd Archer, Dalton is still regaining his sense of taste and smell, both products of his bout with COVID. Dalton’s wife and one of his three children also tested positive for the virus, though all three have since recovered. COVID may have exacerbated Dalton’s concussion symptoms with the 33-year-old complaining of a persistent headache throughout his illness.
A three-time Pro Bowler with Cincinnati, Dalton spent over a week in quarantine, staying active by getting in some light conditioning work at his home gym while his teammates practiced without him. “You miss the one game because of the concussion, first time dealing with that, and then the COVID. It's like, it all kind of hit at once,” mused Dalton, who moved to the top of Dallas’ QB depth chart after Dak Prescott was lost to a season-ending ankle injury. “I wish I could have been out there.”
Despite a difficult few weeks, Dalton has reportedly impressed at Cowboys practice, earning praise from head coach Mike McCarthy. “Andy has excellent command of the whole operation,” said McCarthy following Wednesday’s session at The Star, the team’s state-of-the-art practice facility in Frisco. “Great to have him back.”
The Cowboys have been utterly atrocious this year, but fortunately for them, so has everyone else in the NFC Least. ESPN’s NFL Power Index gives Dallas a slim, but not impossible 5.5-percent probability of winning what could go down as the worst division in the sport’s history. Dalton should be an improvement on the overmatched likes of DiNucci and Gilbert, though apparently the Vegas handicappers don’t think it will make much difference. FanDuel Sportsbook has installed the 2-7 Cowboys as seven-point road dogs ahead of Sunday’s game in the Twin Cities.