Will Dak Prescott be less than 100 percent all year?

During halftime of Friday night’s Chiefs-Cardinals game on ESPN, Adam Schefter made a comment that felt initially like a throwaway line but that, based on the words used, seems significant after playing it back a couple of times.

Regarding Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott and his lingering absence due to a shoulder strain, Schefter said, “He’s not fully back, he may not be back all season long.”

Schefter pointed to the shoulder injury and the broken ankle from last year, and he didn’t specify which injury would potentially keep Dak at under 100 percent. However, the shoulder injury quite possibly resulted from the ankle injury.

Simms has said that Prescott’s throwing motion looks different, possibly because he’s overcompensating with his arm for a back foot that he’s reluctant to plant (consciously or not) as aggressively as he did before suffering the broken ankle.

That’s the challenge, one that could last for all of the 2021 season — and one that could impact not only his availability but also his performance. Compensating for the ankle. Compensating for the shoulder. Struggling to not think about traffic around the leg. Trusting the ankle when deciding in a nanosecond whether to tuck the ball and run. Trusting the arm to make aggressive throws that could re-strain a shoulder injury that is, essentially, a baseball pitching injury.

Dak has incredible toughness and will. He’s overcome far more than what he’ll be facing this year. But it’s a delicate balance. He needs to understand the connection between his brain and his body in a way he perhaps never has. As his legs or arms strive to reach the full limits of their capabilities, the control room sealed inside his skull could be tapping the brakes, even if he doesn’t want to do that.

The urgency is there, especially with a visit to the Buccaneers coming in 19 days. It’s critical for the Cowboys to protect Dak from himself, even if he’ll be unhappy about it. The goal should be to get him “fully back,” however long it takes.

Along the way, it would make more sense to have a better No. 2 to Prescott. That hasn’t happened yet; at this point, it seems unlikely that there would be enough time to get a new quarterback up to speed.