ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Dak Prescott said he felt it in his soul when the Dallas Cowboys released Ezekiel Elliott in the offseason.
Together as stars since their rookie year in 2016, the quarterback and running back haven’t really had much time to digest being on separate teams.
They’re getting used to it now — just in time.
Elliott and the Patriots (1-2) visit Prescott and the Cowboys (2-1) on Sunday, a reunion so significant it’s almost making a footnote of New England’s Bill Belichick needing a victory to become the third coach in NFL history with 300 wins in the regular season for his career.
“That’s part of the business,” Prescott said. “We learned that pretty quick, and then seeing him depart, it was part of it. But I’m happy for him, always pulling for him and he’s doing well. Excited for him.”
They were fast friends because Prescott, a fourth-round draft pick, unexpectedly became the starter in 2016 when Tony Romo was injured. Elliott, the fourth overall choice, was automatically in the lineup from the beginning.
Elliott didn’t have a license at the time, Prescott said, and the quarterback had a car. Things just grew from there, to the point that Elliott called Prescott to give him a heads-up before the two-time rushing champion’s release in a cost-cutting move was official in March.
“It’s really just being thankful for the time that we’ve had together,” Prescott said. “That’s got to end at some point, whether it ends with you retiring, whether it ends with you traded and changing teams, whatever it may be. Just blessed for the time that we’ve had, the relationship that we got to create, goes well beyond our time playing.”
The previous time Dallas receiver CeeDee Lamb saw the Patriots, he was waving “bye” — which drew a fine — after catching the winning touchdown pass in a 35-29 overtime victory two years ago.
Before that, the Cowboys never could beat Tom Brady’s Patriots, going 0-5 in a 16-year span that included one loss with Prescott under center.
Now Dallas is trying to re-establish some early season momentum after a 28-16 loss at Arizona, looking for a 10th consecutive victory at AT&T Stadium and the first at home over New England since 1996.
Elliott is trying to build on his best day for the Patriots, an 80-yard outing in a 15-10 win over the New York Jets.
“Definitely a big game for him,” Lamb said. “There’s a lot on his shoulders, obviously. It’s the team he got drafted to. All of the relationships, friendships and bonds. His best friend is the quarterback, so there’s gonna be a lot of emotions going on. It’ll be exciting to see.”
LT FIRST — PERIOD
Belichick isn’t one to compare players of different eras.
So, when he likened the athleticism of Cowboys edge rusher Micah Parsons to that of Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor during an appearance on Boston radio this week, it quickly made its way across social media.
“He’s a big, physical player that’s very athletic and quick. Along the lines of a Taylor. That kind of — athlete,” Belichick said on WEEI’s Greg Hill Show.
Asked a day later to elaborate on the similarities between the two players, Belichick made clear that there is only one Taylor. Belichick coached the eight-time All-Pro for 10 seasons (1981-1990) as a New York Giants assistant.
“I would just say, I wouldn’t put anybody ahead of Lawrence Taylor. Period,” Belichick said. “Now, maybe I’m prejudiced, but I saw that guy every day for over a decade, and he tilted the field for a decade. So, until somebody does that — and there’s a lot of great players. I’m not taking anything away from anybody else. … But personally, I’m not putting anybody ahead of Lawrence Taylor. Not yet.”
CHECKING THAT LINE
The biggest question for Dallas is the health of the offensive line after three starters were sidelined against Arizona. “Improving” might be the best description mid-week.
Six-time All-Pro right guard Zack Martin and center Tyler Biadasz were upgraded to limited practice participation Thursday after not practicing Wednesday. Martin injured an ankle two weeks ago against the New York Jets, and Biadasz strained a hamstring in practice last week.
Oft-injured left tackle Tyron Smith, who was a late add to the injury report last week with a knee issue, missed the first two practices this week. Smith was active but didn’t play against the Jets.
SAME OL’ STEPH
Cowboys cornerback Stephon Gilmore made his impact on the Patriots during his four seasons in New England, helping them win a Super Bowl in 2018 and earning AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2019 before a trade to Carolina in 2021.
Even three years since Gilmore’s last snap for the Patriots, Belichick said he’s still sees an impact player who was an All-Pro in 2018-19.
“Steph looks kind of like he’s always looked,” Belichick said. “Long and disruptive. Really good ball skills. Got to be careful throwing the ball around him. He’ll catch it.”
The soft-spoken Gilmore predictably downplayed the reunion.
“Every game is personal,” said Gilmore, who had his 30th interception in the opener and is on his fifth team in 12 seasons after Dallas’ offseason trade with Indianapolis.
“Got a lot of respect for those guys, but come Sunday all that goes out the window.”
The Game’s on 12!
New England Nation is your source for complete Patriots coverage, getting you ready for every game with exclusive insight and analysis, the latest headlines, and interviews with the players and coaches.
♦ Watch: 11:30 a.m. Sunday on FOX Providence
♦ Kickoff: 1 p.m. on WPRI 12
♦ Patriots Wrap: 10:30 p.m. on FOX Providence