The groundwork has been laid for Andy Dalton to re-take his Dallas Cowboys starting quarterback job that temporarily will belong to third-stringer Garrett Gilbert or practice-squadder Cooper Rush.
Addressing the media in his Wednesday pre-practice conference call, Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy issued a brief update on Dalton, who was moved to the NFL’s reserve/COVID-19 list on Tuesday. McCarthy indicated the 31-year-old veteran could be back under center following the team’s Week 10 bye.
“He’s doing fine. We’ll see how goes throughout the time he’s on this COVID list, but I think by the end of next week we’ll be able to see him again,” McCarthy said.
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The Dallas Morning News reported Tuesday that Dalton, sidelined in Week 8 due to a concussion, was not asymptomatic. He must return a series of negative coronavirus tests to gain re-entry into the Cowboys’ facility, ruling him out for Sunday’s home contest against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“As of early afternoon, Cowboys hadn’t been told to enter intensive protocol after designating Andy Dalton for reserve/COVID-19 list, per source,” USA Today reported Tuesday. “Dalton didn’t travel to Philly but McCarthy said he’d last seen the QB in meetings Saturday.”
With Dalton further sidelined and franchise QB Dak Prescott (ankle) done for the year, the Cowboys will turn to Gilbert or Rush — both of whom split Wednesday’s practice reps — versus Pittsburgh, McCarthy confirmed.
“Garrett Gilbert has been here for a couple of weeks, he’s had a chance to play in preseason games. Just has more experience. And no different with Coop,” he said. “Coop played last year, is very familiar with the system. (Offensive coordinator) Kellen Moore has a lot of confidence there. We’re going to let those two guys (practice), we’re going to go through the week and then make a decision.”
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McCarthy Explains Reason for DiNucci’s Benching
The first-year Cowboys head man easily explained away his decision to name a new starter in Dalton’s extended absence. McCarthy confirmed reports that rookie Ben Dinucci was benched after his performance in the team’s Week 8 loss to Philadelphia.
“The decision was made to go with the two experienced quarterbacks,” he told reporters Wednesday. “I just felt with the opponent that we’re playing, we need some more experience at the position.”
When the Dalton news broke, most immediately assumed DiNucci would retain the starting gig despite an uninspiring showing against the Eagles in which he completed 21-of-40 passes for just 180 scoreless yards and lost two fumbles amid the 23-9 defeat.
The effort drew sharp criticism from Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones, who picked apart the James Madison product in a Tuesday radio interview — a clear indication the club was planning to go another route.
“I think that it was a lot for him. I think we certainly, as a team, paid the price to have him come in and under those circumstances. And that’s almost trite. It was frankly more than he could handle,” Jones said on 105.3 The Fan.
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL