It's been a season of firsts for Cowboys quarterback Andy Dalton. For the first time in his career, Dalton, who spent his first nine seasons with the Bengals, started the season as a backup. After replacing an injured Dak Prescott in the Cowboys' starting lineup, Dalton was forced to miss a game because of a concussion for the first time in his career. He then had to miss another game after he, his wife, and one of his three children tested positive for COVID-19. Dalton said this week that he and his family are now healthy and "back to normal."
While he did not compare his experience with COVID-19 to the pain he endured after being concussed by Washington linebacker Jon Bostic, Dalton, who said that he is still trying to regain his taste and smell, acknowledged that dealing with the virus was no picnic.
"The COVID, it hit me hard the first day I had it, then it gradually started feeling better," Dalton said, via ESPN's Todd Archer. "By the end of it, I was ready to get out of quarantine and get back up here."
Dalton stayed in shape during his quarantine by working out in his home gym. He is slated to make his first start since sustaining his concussion when the 2-7 Cowboys face the 4-5 Vikings on Sunday. Speaking of his concussion, Dalton said that he was disappointed with the league's decision not to suspend Bostic, who was fined $12,000. Dalton said he is no longer feeling the effects of the concussion. He was not thrilled with the prospect of watching his teammates play without him.
"It was a little frustrating," Dalton said. "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. I wish I could have been out there. I wish I could have played in the two games that I missed."
Dalton watched as the Cowboys started their third- and fourth-string quarterbacks in consecutive weeks. After rookie Ben DiNucci struggled in Dallas' Week 8 loss in Philadelphia, veteran Garrett Gilbert put up a solid effort against the visiting Steelers in Week 9, throwing for 243 yards with a touchdown and an interception in the Cowboys' 24-19 loss.
While the 2020 season has clearly not been what Dalton and his teammates envisioned, the Cowboys are only 1.5 games out of first place in the NFC East. That is what Dalton is choosing to focus on as he prepares to make his third start for his new team.
"Everything is out in front of us," Dalton said. "That's the crazy thing with how this season has gone. Some games we feel like we have had chances in. All of that stuff doesn't matter at this point. Now we have to move forward. We have to think about these next seven games, and that is all our focus is -- what we have in front of us."