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Cowboys news: Linebacker Keanu Neal misses practice on Thursday with injury

Check out today’s latest and greatest news surrounding America’s team!

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders at Dallas Cowboys Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Cowboys’ Keanu Neal: DNP Thursday - Rotowire Staff

Late news yesterday that the Cowboys have an issue at linebacker.

[Keanu] Neal (chest/elbow) did not participate at Thursday’s practice, Michael Gehlken of The Dallas Morning News reports.

The linebacker was a limited participant for Wednesday’s non-padded work, but was unavailable for Thursday’s regular practice. With the step back in participation, Neal’s ability to play Sunday against the 49ers comes into greater question. His status at the Cowboys’ practice Friday is worth monitoring and if he can’t go for this weekend’s wild-card matchup, Luke Gifford and Francis Bernard could be asked to play larger roles at linebacker.

Also, another move.

Dallas Cowboys reach new deal with VP Will McClay - Todd Archer, ESPN

Will McClay has been re-signed!

FRISCO, Texas — With a number of general manager jobs open across the NFL, the Dallas Cowboys have made sure nobody will be able to lure away Will McClay, agreeing to a new contract with their vice president of player personnel, it was announced Thursday.

While owner and general manager Jerry Jones has final say, McClay has been the Cowboys’ chief personnel executive since 2014, heading up the team’s draft and free-agent processes and working closely with executive vice president Stephen Jones.

Since 2014, the Cowboys have drafted nine players who went on to earn Pro Bowl honors: Zack Martin, DeMarcus Lawrence, Byron Jones, Ezekiel Elliott, Jaylon Smith, Dak Prescott, Leighton Vander Esch, Trevon Diggs and Micah Parsons.

In free agency, the Cowboys have not signed big-money players recently, but this season found value in the likes of Jayron Kearse, Damontae Kazee, Malik Hooker, Jeremy Sprinkle, Keanu Neal, Carlos Watkins, Tarell Basham and Brent Urban in winning the NFC East with a 12-5 record.

“Excellent personnel man and an even better person,” coach Mike McCarthy said earlier this week. “I really enjoy working with Will. I can’t say enough about him. He’s very astute at his approach and how the inner workings of the personnel department and the collaboration between Will, Stephen and Jerry. We spend a tremendous amount of time together and I enjoy working with him.

“He’s obviously someone that I know as an organization we would not want to lose. But he’s definitely worthy of any opportunity that pursues him. Will does a tremendous job.”

Practice Report: Cowboys Back To Full Strength? -

Cowboys are pretty healthy going into the Wild Card round.

The Cowboys have battled through their share of injuries and other setbacks all season long.

From having star players such as Zack Martin, Amari Cooper, Tyron Smith and Micah Parsons miss games this year due to COVID-19, to other injuries on key players like DeMarcus Lawrence, Randy Gregory and even Dak Prescott, the Cowboys are entering this Wild Card round of the playoffs in good shape.

Mike McCarthy: The Energy Has Been Really Good

As the Cowboys prepare for the 49ers Sunday at 3:30 p.m. at AT&T Stadium, here are the latest updates from Thursday’s practice at The Star.

The Cowboys practiced on the outdoor practice fields at The Star in pads Thursday during the portion normally open to the media.

The entire active roster was present at practice during the open portion.

Safety Jayron Kearse returned to practice after being activated from the Reserve/COVID-19 list.

Cornerback Nahshon Wright also returned to practice after being excused from Wednesday’s practice (not injury related).

Running back Tony Pollard and tight end Blake Jarwin continued their early-practice routine of doing rehab work with associate athletic trainer/director of rehabilitation Britt Brown before moving into individual work.

Dallas Cowboys, no matter how often you break our city’s heart, we can’t quit you - Sharon Grigsby, Dallas Morning News

Cowboys, we love you.

How much does Dallas love its Cowboys?

Pandemic be damned, otherwise sensible adults of all ages, backgrounds, incomes and political affiliations will gather Sunday to collectively lose their minds over their beloved and beleaguered football team.

More than 100,000 of the faithful are expected to crowd into AT&T Stadium for the team’s first-round playoff game. Countless more will gather in sports bars, living rooms and, among the COVID-wary, virtually on social media.

Philadelphia has the cheese steak, San Francisco the Golden Gate Bridge, New Orleans its Mardi Gras.

Like it or not, the Dallas Cowboys are our point of pride.

Despite not being consistently good for a very long time, the Cowboys still somehow hang on to that label of “America’s Team” and remain one of the world’s iconic sports franchises.

Mailbag: Top Dal-SF Memory? Offense or Defer? - David Helman,

Favorite rivalry memory of the Cowboys-49ers?

With the history of these two teams, what are some of your favorite games, plays, or memories from this rivalry? – JONATHAN CAGLEY / WEST VALLEY, UT

David: I’m afraid I’m a little on the young side, so my memories of the 90s are pretty fuzzy. I’ll always remember where I was the day that George Teague knocked Terrell Owens off the star at midfield. Even as a young kid who didn’t grow up a Cowboy fan, I realized at the time how cool and significant that was. One of the many great things about this job has been getting to learn about those games from people who played in them. It turns out, it’s pretty cool when guys like Nate Newton and Charles Haley walk through your office on a regular basis.

Predicting the Cowboys Wild Card matchup: The 49ers rushing attack is slightly overrated - Aidan Davis, Blogging the Boys

Is the 49ers rushing attack... overrated?

Where did we get this crazy idea that the 49ers will be able to run all over us? We must disregard the previous Kyle Shanahan seasons; this team does not run the ball with incredible efficiency.

Let’s use the same metrics we did in the previous section and look at the 49ers offensive rankings by rushing success:

Yards per attempt: 16th

PFF: 19th

EPA per Play: 9th

DVOA: 5th

This is not an attempt to disparage the 49ers’ rushing attack; they are above average. But the notion that the Cowboys will not be able to stop San Francisco on the ground is entirely misguided.

Dallas has stopped more efficient rushing attacks before, namely the Eagles, Patriots, and Buccaneers, where they allowed an average of 96.3 yards per game to those teams. Ninety-six rushing yards allowed per game would be the fifth lowest in the NFL this season if you extrapolated across an entire year.

But, what the 49ers do incredibly well is use the run to set up the pass.

San Francisco’s 29.4 rushing attempts per game is the fifth-highest rate in the league, and their 8.6 yards per pass attempt is the second-highest in the NFL. What the 49ers do masterfully is running the ball continuously, albeit inefficiently, but they draw the defense closer and closer to the line of scrimmage. Right then, the 49ers will hit a deep ball over the top.

Cowboys Dak Prescott Locked-In on Having Postseason Success - Matthew Lenix, Inside the Star

Dak Prescott has been a “postseason QB” since year one.

Prescott has performed well in his postseason career. He’s completed 64% of his passes with a quarterback rating of 95.7 and produced seven total touchdowns (five passing, two rushing) in three games. The highlight of Prescott’s playoff performances came in his rookie season in 2016 when he went toe-to-toe with Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers by throwing for 302 yards and three touchdowns and erased a 21-3 deficit.

Unfortunately for the former Offensive Rookie of the Year, the Cowboys lost 34-31 and they have played in just two playoff games since going 1-1. A losing record in the playoffs isn’t what any quarterback wants to have on his resume. For Prescott, this postseason is about leaving no doubt that he can take a team deep into the playoffs and that he is one of the best quarterbacks in the league.

The Cowboys possess the NFL’s top-ranked offense in terms of yards and points per game and a defense that was the best on third down and led the league in turnovers. However, it all starts with Prescott, and the Cowboys will only go as far as he takes them.

After signing a four-year, $160 million extension in the offseason, Prescott has his financial security. When you’re the quarterback for the Cowboys, how many dollars you make doesn’t though, it’s about winning Super Bowls like Hall of Famers Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman did in the 70s and 90s.

It’s go time, and Prescott is focused on putting his name alongside the great Cowboys signal callers of the past.

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