Cowboys QB Andy Dalton placed on COVID-19 reserve list, ruled out vs. Steelers

The Cowboys are placing quarterback Andy Dalton on the reserve/COVID-19 list, a person with knowledge of the confirmed to USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday afternoon. The person spoke on condition of anonymity since the designation had not yet been publicly announced.

It was not clear whether the placement was the result of a positive test or close contact with someone who had contracted COVID-19.

Cowboys management was hopeful Dalton could return to face the 7-0 Steelers this week.

Dalton missed the Cowboys’ Week 8 divisional matchup with the Eagles after suffering his first career concussion the previous week in a loss to Washington.

Rookie Ben DiNucci, Dallas’ 2020 seventh-round selection, started in the 23-9 loss. 

DiNucci completed 21 of 40 passes for 180 yards and no touchdowns against the Eagles. He was sacked four times and lost two fumbles, one of which Philadelphia returned for a touchdown. Owner Jerry Jones spoke bluntly Tuesday morning about DiNucci’s starting debut.

“It was a lot for him,” Jones told Dallas radio station 105.3 The Fan. “I think we certainly, as a team, paid the price to have him come in and under those circumstances. And that's almost trite. It was frankly more than he could handle.”

The Cowboys have scored just one touchdown in three contests without quarterback Dak Prescott, who suffered a season-ending ankle injury in Week 5. In four full games before the compound fracture and dislocation, Prescott averaged 422.5 passing yards per game. He scored nine touchdowns passing, three rushing and another receiving while playing out a franchise tag.

The Cowboys could start DiNucci again against the Steelers, whose defense leads the league in 30 sacks while ranking third in interceptions (10) and fifth in yards allowed per game (310.7). Journeyman Garrett Gilbert was DiNucci’s backup in Philadelphia. Last week, Dallas also re-signed former backup Cooper Rush to the practice squad. Rush attempted just three passes in three seasons with the Cowboys from 2017-19 but is familiar with coordinator Kellen Moore’s playbook.

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Landon Collins of the Washington Football Team strips the ball from Andy Dalton of the Dallas Cowboys during the first half at FedExField on October 25, 2020 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo: Scott Taetsch, Getty Images)

Monday, head coach Mike McCarthy attributed the team's track record of not having a player on the reserve/COVID-19 list since July to education across the building.

“Pretty much almost every day or definitely a couple times a week, there's always feedback that our football operations is giving us as far as what the new emphasis is and how we can continue to improve on it,” McCarthy said Monday evening. “I think our players and staff have done a very good job, the best they can, as far as the social distancing and the tracking and all the components that go into it.

“So hopefully we can keep it going.”

The team had not been told to enter intensive protocol by early afternoon, a person with knowledge of team conversations said. Dalton did not travel to Philadelphia with the team, though McCarthy said he was in meetings last week, as recently as Saturday.

The Cowboys are scheduled to have their bye in Week 9.

Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein 

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