Dallas Cowboys QB Andy Dalton says COVID-19 'hit me hard'

FRISCO, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys quarterback Andy Dalton does not quite remember everything about the play that knocked him out for a week because of a concussion, but he remembers everything about dealing with the coronavirus that forced him to miss a game on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

"The COVID, it hit me hard the first day I had it, then it gradually started feeling better," said Dalton, who said he is still trying to get back his smell and taste as he prepares to start Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings. "By the end of it, I was ready to get out of quarantine and get back up here."

When Dalton returned to The Star last week during the Cowboys' bye, he had to finish going through the concussion protocols. Because he was quarantined, he had been unable to finish those.

"It was a crazy three weeks for me, but I'm glad to be on the other side of it," Dalton said. "I'm glad to be back with everybody and through those three weeks."

Dalton said he thought he was over the concussion symptoms when he was diagnosed with COVID-19, which brought on a different type of headache. Dalton is not sure how he contracted the virus but said his wife, JJ, and one of his sons also tested positive. Two of his children did not.

"Everybody is good now," Dalton said. "So we're all healthy and back to normal."

The concussion was the first of his career. He took a vicious hit to the helmet by Washington linebacker Jon Bostic in the third quarter of the 25-3 loss. Bostic was fined $12,000 but not suspended.

Dalton said he remembers everything leading up to the hit and was disappointed in the league's penalty of Bostic.

"You know, with that whole thing, just looking at some of the fines and different things that other people got, I was a little surprised by the number," Dalton said. "But it is what it is."

Unable to work out at The Star for more than a week and quarantined at his house away from his family, Dalton said he was able to get in some conditioning work at his home gym "to stay in it."

He said he has felt fine during the week of practice so far.

"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."

Rookie Ben DiNucci started in the loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Nov. 1, and Garrett Gilbert made his first career start against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Nov. 8. The Cowboys hope Dalton's return can spark an offense that has scored just two touchdowns in the four starts without Dak Prescott.

"I thought he was decisive and he threw the ball very well," coach Mike McCarthy said of Dalton's work in Wednesday's practice. "That's the biggest thing because obviously the ball is coming out on time and so forth. I thought he was in rhythm. Andy has excellent command of the whole operation. ... Great to have him back."

At 2-7, the Cowboys are in last place in the NFC East but still have a shot at competing in the division with Philadelphia in first despite a 3-5-1 record.

"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."