The Cowboys are surely hoping Andy Dalton is back sooner rather than later, which isn’t a sentence one would’ve expected to read before the 2020 season.
With Dak Prescott already out for the year, Dalton’s concussion took on added significance in Week 7 because it meant Dallas was down to Ben DiNucci and Garrett Gilbert at quarterback. The Cowboys are already at risk of falling further behind in the brutal NFC East, and even though Dalton was playing poorly, his return is likely Dallas’ best in-house option to work its way back into contention this season.
Here’s what you need to know about Dalton’s injury and when he might return for the Cowboys:
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How long will Andy Dalton be out?
There’s no way of knowing for sure how long Dalton’s concussion will keep him out, because every concussion’s recovery period seems to be a bit different. Beaumont Health Services writes that most concussions resolve over the course of one-to-two weeks, with the average time being 10 days. Dalton hasn’t had a recorded concussion before, which potentially will help him recover a bit faster than a repeated injury.
The return-to-play process in the NFL’s concussion protocol has five steps:
- Rest and recovery: A player needs to return to “baseline level of signs and symptoms and neurological examination.”
- Light aerobic exercise: Light cardiovascular activity is monitored to see if any concussion symptoms recur.
- Continued aerobic exercise and introduction of strength training: Again, a trainer will supervise to watch for recurring symptoms.
- Football specific activities: Players will participate in non-contact football activities, typically for a full practice.
- Full football activity/clearance: A player participates without restriction in practice with allowed contact.
What is Andy Dalton’s injury?
Dalton has a concussion. He was concussed when Washington Football Team linebacker Jon Bostic launched himself at Dalton’s head/neck area while Dalton slid at the end of a run.
There’s no perfect scale to measure the severity of a concussion, at least that NFL teams release to the public. The hit itself looked severe, but players seem to recover from concussion at various rates.
There’s also the matter of concussions seeming to work as an additive injury. Since Dalton had never had a recorded concussion before this, it’s likely the issues this first concussion causes will be less severe than for a frequently concussed player, at least once Dalton gets used to his own symptoms.
Andy Dalton injury timeline
Oct. 25 – Dalton slides at the end of a run in the third quarter against the WFT. Linebacker Jon Bostic hits Dalton hard up in his head/neck area, leading to a personal foul penalty and ejection for Bostic. Dalton had to be helped off the field to the locker room. The Cowboys announced after the game that Dalton was dealing with concussion-like symptoms and that he would return to Dallas with the team.
Oct. 26 – Dalton is placed into the NFL’s concussion protocol.
Oct. 28 – The Cowboys practice Wednesday without Dalton, who has not progressed yet through the concussion protocol.
Oct. 29 – Dalton advances in concussion protocol to being able to take part in the QB meetings, but he won’t practice yet.
Oct. 30 – Dalton is officially listed as ‘doubtful’ for Sunday Night Football in Week 8.
Oct. 31 – The Cowboys change Dalton to ‘out’ for Week 8, meaning DiNucci will start.
Andy Dalton injury updates
Oct. 25 – The Cowboys announced that Dalton was experiencing concussion-like symptoms following their loss to Washington. They also announced he’d return home with the Cowboys.
Oct. 26 – Dalton was officially placed into the NFL’s concussion protocol.
Oct. 28 – Dalton was a ‘Did Not Participate’ due to “concussion” at Dallas’ week-opening Wednesday practice.
Oct. 29 – Dalton participated in the Cowboys’ quarterback meeting Thursday morning but will not practice. DiNucci will continue to get first-team reps.
Oct. 30 – Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Dalton “should be good to go next week” on his radio appearance on Friday ahead of Week 8.