FRISCO, Texas — If it were solely up to Dak Prescott, the Dallas Cowboys quarterback would play Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings despite a calf strain that has kept him limited the last two days of practice.
“Knowing this is a long journey and a long season, I don’t necessarily know if this is fully my decision, but I’m just going to keep controlling the things I can to get better,” Prescott said Thursday. “I’ve gotten better each and every day, and that’s what is most important. I’m just focused on doing that again tomorrow.”
Prescott said the coaches and director of rehabilitation Britt Brown will be part of the decision-making process as well. Prescott has worked closely with Brown, who oversaw his rehab from the compound fracture and dislocation of his right ankle and his return from a latissimus strain in his right shoulder in training camp.
While coach Mike McCarthy said Prescott would have to clear certain “thresholds” in practice to play, the quarterback said he is not sure what those are.
“They didn’t tell me which ones I’ve got to pass,” Prescott said. “Obviously I trust myself, trust my body, trust what I’m thinking, but also I trust the coaches and Britt, Jim [Maurer] and the whole training staff. We’ve put a lot into this. I’ve put a lot into my body and taking care of myself.
“But they know. They know how these things work. First time dealing with something like this, obviously on the same leg as my ankle, I want to be smart about it and cautious. But as I’ve said, I’ve gotten better each and every day. I’m doing things today I didn’t do as well the day before. I think that’s huge.”
Prescott went through an extended rehab period before practice, simulating quarterbacks drops, rollouts and changing of direction.
“Today I pushed it. Today, yeah, I didn’t go half or 75% — I went all and I just told myself that if something was going to happen, I’m going to do it today,” he said. “But I needed to feel the full go and I did that.
Prescott has taken team snaps only in the walkthroughs, with Cooper Rush taking the first-team action in practice the last few days. McCarthy said the team would consider dressing three quarterbacks for the first time this season if Prescott does play.
Prescott said he was not sure he could have played last week after suffering the injury in the Oct. 17 win against the New England Patriots. He spent the bye week getting treatment daily and said he thought that playing this week was a possibility on Monday. Prescott also noted there is not a particular movement that gives him trouble and that he would be comfortable playing even with limited practice time.
“Obviously I’ve been in this offense for a while. I sat out all of camp and came out the way that I did,” Prescott said, referring to his 403-yard passing effort vs. Tampa Bay in Week 1. “I said it today, just watching practice going through my reads, it’s like sometimes you see things better from back there, from watching the game. I know all my reads, I know all the checks and I know what we’re trying to do in this game plan. That will never change whether I’m limited or not.”
The timing of the season may play a part in the decision for the Cowboys, who are playing their seventh of 17 games Sunday. If this was later in the season or a playoff contest, Prescott would play.
“It’d be no question, 100% no question,” he said.
The Cowboys do not hold a normal practice Friday, going through a regeneration day, but Prescott would like to take part in the extended walkthrough the team goes through on Saturday before flying to Minnesota.
“There is a bigger picture. It is more than just this one game,” he said. “The fact is I don’t want this to linger past this week. Same as I told y’all in training camp about my shoulder: something I want to nip in the bud and make sure I’m healthy and ready to go, so I don’t think about it playing and we’re not having these conversations past today.”
Notable Bets – November among worst months ever for betting public
The proud and confident American betting public just turned in the worst month of NFL gambling that veteran bookmakers can remember.
Entering Monday Night Football, underdogs have covered the spread nearly 60% of games in November. Twenty-three underdogs pulled outright upsets during the month, and heavily-bet primetime favorites seemed to go down on a weekly basis.
“From week to week, things appear to change dramatically,” Chuck Esposito, a veteran Las Vegas bookmaker with Station Casinos, said. “Dominant teams earlier in the year have come down to earth, and dogs have been covering at a much higher clip. There are 24 teams that are still fighting for playoff spots.”
Public bettors have struggled to figure it out and got crushed in November.
“There was one week where the players had only one game that they won, and another week they only won two games,” Jeff Stoneback, a 30-plus-year Las Vegas bookmaker, who oversees BetMGM’s sportsbook in Nevada, said. “We did have big wins, yes, but the number of wins, percentage-wise for us, was unbelievable. I was shocked.”
Sportsbooks’ net profit or loss on bets is known as the “hold,” as in the amount of money that bookmakers hold onto after everything is settled. Over the last three decades, Nevada sportsbooks on average have held around 5.5% of the money bet. The SuperBook at Westgate Las Vegas was on pace to hold around 6.25% this November.
“It looks like it will wind up being one of our best hold months in Nevada on record,” John Murray, executive director of the SuperBook, told ESPN.
For the betting public, the unfortunate November came directly after a hot streak. In October, sportsbooks endured three consecutive losing Sundays. But all that did was plumpen bankrolls in time for a bookmakers’ Thanksgiving feast.
Jay Croucher, head of trading for sportsbook PointsBet, said Week 9 was when the season turned against bettors, pointing to the Jaguars’ upset of the Bills as two-touchdown underdogs as “especially notable” for his book.
Murray said Nov. 7, the Sunday featuring the Jags’ upset of the Bills, was the SuperBook’s best day of the season by far.
“There were some terrible Sundays for NFL favorites this month and that meant great returns for the house,” Murray said.
November also brought a string of heavily-bet favorites losing in primetime. The Titans and 49ers each beat the Rams on primetime in consecutive weeks, and the Dolphins upset the Ravens on a Thursday night, producing books’ biggest wins in November.
“It’s been an excellent November so far for the book,” Croucher added.
• Home teams are 77-101-1 against the spread) this season, which is on pace to the worst ATS mark in the Super Bowl era.
• Underdogs are 99-77-1 against the spread, which is on pace to be the best mark since 1980.
• With fewer games, betting handle on Sunday was lighter than in previous weeks, and there not many big decisions. Multiple bookmakers described Sunday’s results as “insignificant.”
• BetMGM offered a proposition wager on the Bears-Lions game on Thanksgiving: “Will both teams score 40 or more points?” A bettor placed a $227,026 bet on the “No” at -10,000 odds and won a net $2,270, with the Bears’ 16-14 win.
• Biggest reported bets at Caesars Sportsbook:
$445,000 on Packers money-line +115 vs. Rams (Win)
$402,500 on 49ers -3 (-115) vs. Vikings (Win)
$385,000 on Browns +3.5 vs. Ravens $220,000 on Titans +7.5 vs. Patriots (Loss)
College football notables
• Sunday opening conference championship game lines at Las Vegas sportsbook Circa Sports:
Conference USA: Western Kentucky vs. Texas-San Antonio PK, 71.5
Pac-12: Oregon vs. Utah -2, 59.5
Big 12: Baylor vs. Oklahoma State -5, 46.5
MAC: Kent State -3, 72 vs. Northern Illinois
MWC: Utah State vs. San Diego State -5, 51.5
Sun Belt: Appalachian State -3, 53.5 vs. Louisiana-Lafayette
AAC: Houston vs. Cincinnati -12, 54.5
SEC: Georgia -6, 49.5 vs. Alabama
ACC: Wake Forest vs. Pittsburgh -3, 72.5
Big Ten: Iowa vs. Michigan -11, 41.5
• Georgia was around a 4-point favorite over Alabama before the weekend’s games. But after the Crimson Tide struggled to pull out a win against Auburn, the SuperBook reopened Georgia a 6.5-point favorites. The early action on the game was relatively even, with 56% of the money bet on the game as of Sunday on the favored Bulldogs.
• Michigan’s upset of Ohio State on Saturday produced the biggest win of the college football season to date for PointsBet.
What were the odds?
30-1: Alabama’s odds to beat Auburn late in the fourth quarter, trailing 10-3. The Crimson Tide would tie the score on a late Bryce Young touchdown pass and win the game in the fourth overtime. [odds via Caesars Sportsbook]
-200: Bryce Young’s odds to win the Heisman Trophy. Young is the odds-on favorite at Caesars Sportsbook, followed by Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud (4-1) and Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson (15-1). Hutchinson was not listed last week, but caught the attention of oddsmakers-and bettors-after his three-sack performance in the Wolverines’ upset of Ohio State on Saturday. He now has the third-best odds.
-9: Duke closed as a 9-point underdog to Gonzaga in their college basketball showdown on Friday. It’s the first game the Blue Devils were more than a 7.5-point underdog, when ranked in the top 5, since at least the 1993-94 season. Duke won 84-81.
+14: The New Orleans Pelicans beat the Utah Jazz 98-97 as 14-point underdogs on Friday. It’s the largest upset, point spread-wise, of the NBA season so far.
Q&A with a bettor
Cal Spears is a Tennessee-based entrepreneur in the fantasy sports and betting space, who hit a $1,000, six-leg same-game parlay on the Raiders-Cowboys game on Thursday that paid $266,566.27. Talk about a fulfilling Thanksgiving!
The six legs were:
•DeSean Jackson any time touchdown scorer
•Ezekiel Elliott over 19.5 receiving yards
•Josh Jacobs over 19.5 receiving yards
•Michael Gallup over 100 receiving yards (alternate line)
•Tony Pollard over 16.5 receiving yards
•Elliott any time touchdown scorer
Spears communicated with ESPN’s David Purdum this week about his improbable win. The interview has been organized and edited for clarity.
Q: Take us through your process when creating this parlay. What was the thinking behind it?
While looking at late swaps for my DFS lineups during the Bears game it dawned on me Desean Jackson’s chances of catching a bomb were underestimated. I opened Fanduel to check his yardage prop and they didn’t even offer one. So I bet him to score a TD at +700 and then added on the other legs I liked. I actually hit another parlay that didn’t include the Zeke TD and the Pollard Over for $91,000.
Q: Were you at Thanksgiving dinner when it all played out?
My girlfriend and I had plans to do Thanksgiving with my family in Madisonville, Kentucky, but we both came down with colds. We got negative COVID tests on Wednesday but still did not feel well Thursday morning. So we scrapped our plans and ended up laying on the couch all Thanksgiving watching football. I would not have made this bet if we made the trip to Kentucky; betting is not yet legal there.
Q: Takes us through the sweat, please.
The sweat couldn’t have started any better with a DeSean touchdown just a few minutes into the game. Three quarters later it looked completely dead then Gallup came to life with catches of 41, 32, and 17 to cross 100 yards. Going into overtime I just needed one catch each from Zeke and Jacobs. I watched in disbelief as things fell exactly how I needed and then triple sanity checked stats to make sure.
Q: How did you celebrate and what will you do with the winnings?
The endorphins kicked in immediately and I was ready to celebrate but then I remembered it was Thanksgiving night and I had a cold. A proper celebration is pending.
The first thing I did on Friday morning was donate $10,000 each to five non-profits that make an impact locally here in Nashville. I was unbelievably lucky to hit this and am very happy to share my good fortune. Not sure what we will do with the rest but there will definitely be a big Christmas for friends and family.
Suzann Pettersen to captain European team at 2023 Solheim Cup
FINCA CORTESIN, Spain — Suzann Pettersen, who won the Solheim Cup for Europe in 2019 with the last shot of her career, will captain the team four years later for its second straight title defense.
The Norwegian’s 7-foot putt for birdie at the final hole at Gleneagles saw Europe reclaim the biggest prize in women’s team golf and she retired immediately afterward.
Pettersen was vice captain when the Europeans retained the title at the Inverness Club in Ohio in September, also under Catriona Matthew, and now she has taken over as captain.
“This is the biggest honor of my career,” Pettersen said.
The next edition of the Solheim Cup will be played at Finca Cortesín in Andalucía from Sept. 18-24, 2023.
Washington’s Jamin Davis motivated by former teammate Chris Oats, who suffered stroke in 2020
ASHBURN, Va. — When Kemberly Gamble watched the 2021 NFL draft at the urging of her son, one thought raced through her mind: My baby should be there. Instead, her baby, Chris Oats, was beside her in their two-bedroom apartment, fighting to regain full control of his body after a stroke he suffered in 2020.
And it was Oats’ University of Kentucky teammate Jamin Davis hearing his name called in the first round instead of Oats. Davis had replaced his close friend and teammate in the lineup and turned himself into the 19th overall pick by the Washington Football Team.
As Oats works to do things like walk, talk and regain the use of his left side, Davis works to become a quality starter in the NFL for Washington, which plays the Seattle Seahawks on Monday night (8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN).
“The only thing Jamin could have done wrong,” Gamble said, “is messed it up. You don’t have to honor my son, just please remember him. That’s what Jamin stands for. He doesn’t owe my son anything. All he has to do is keep working. This is an opportunity that can be taken away at the drop of a hat.”
Nobody knows that better than Oats. Nobody feels that responsibility more than Davis. They are tied together by friendship and the opportunity created by Oats’ misfortune.
“The way the situation unfolded is just heartbreaking,” Davis said.
In truth, Davis would have received an opportunity for more playing time his junior season after finishing strong as a sophomore. In his final three games of the 2019 regular season, he finished with a combined 19 tackles, including two for a loss. He’s been steadily developing as a rookie starter for Washington.
“He’s made a lot of progress,” Washington linebackers coach Steve Russ said, “especially when it comes to keying and diagnosing and trusting his keys and responding quickly to what he knows. … He’s headed in the right direction. Very accountable; wants to be really, really good, has good work habits.”
Dreaming of the NFL
Oats, a four-star recruit out of high school, was outstanding at times in his second season at Kentucky and the clear leader for one of two starting jobs available for the 2020 season. Oats’ and Davis’ close friend, DeAndre Square, was expected to win the other starting job. In one three-play sequence at the Belk Bowl vs. Virginia Tech at the end of the 2019 season, Oats shot through the line for consecutive tackles for a loss and then made an open-field tackle on third down.
“You’re like, OK, this kid is about to take off,” said Jon Sumrall, Kentucky’s inside linebackers coach and co-defensive coordinator. “Chris was uniquely gifted. He’s long, rangy, could run really well. In coverage, he did some stuff very easily because of his length and athleticism.”
Said Davis: “We can talk for hours about how good a player Chris was. I remember the Belk Bowl. … It was like, man, this mofo is going to the league.”
That was Oats’ dream since he was young, he said via text. In fact, Davis said he, Oats and Square — a senior at Kentucky — used to discuss becoming first-round picks. Right before the 2020 draft, the three were on a group text vowing to have their name called in future years.
Sumrall called them the three amigos.
“I wasn’t out at the bars and partying or anything like that, so when I came across someone extremely similar to me in a lot of ways, I instantly clicked with Chris,” Davis said.
They would talk, play video games (Fortnite, Madden and NBA 2K) and go to Buffalo Wild Wings once a week. Davis would order the boneless wings with barbecue sauce, mostly to provide more choices to the table. Oats would order barbecued chicken and potato wedges with cheese and bacon. Square opted for the garlic parmesan.
“I get memories on my Snapchat all the time,” Davis said, “from when we were sitting in the locker room laughing or playing videos of Square dancing and me and Chris making fun of him. Outside of ball, all just going over to his house and playing video games or watching film together. Things like that made us closer.”
Which made their next chapter more difficult.
Making Oats proud
The stroke occurred two days before Mother’s Day in 2020, while Kentucky’s players were at home because of the coronavirus pandemic. Sumrall informed his players, dispensing whatever information he could that Gamble OK’d. Players eventually realized the severity of the situation.
“I thought it was a sick joke,” Davis said. “Then my thought was, ‘Is he OK? Is there any way we can see him?'”
Sumrall noticed an almost immediate change in Davis when they returned to campus. His practice effort was never in question, but he started watching more film — sometimes arriving a half-hour or 45 minutes early before meetings.
“It became like a snowball rolling down a hill,” Sumrall said. “Every day he came into the meeting room with more intentional focus than ever before.”
Davis felt it, too.
“It was like a reality check,” he said. “Going forward we knew [Oats] wouldn’t want us to sit around bummed out about the situation and feel pity or anything like that. So in my mind it’s like you’ve got to step up and make him proud.”
Square told Davis: It’s your time now.
“He knew what he had to do,” Square said. “We all knew Jamin was probably the best linebacker on the team. He had freakish athletic ability. We always said if he mentally gets the plays down, he’ll probably start over any of us. We were just waiting for him to show it.
“He was ready for the moment.”
Last season, Kentucky would rotate having a defensive player wear Oats’ No. 22. Before a game against Mississippi State, Davis saw the 22 jersey in his locker. He looked to the locker next to him — Oats’ old nook that contained a picture of Chris.
“I said, ‘I’ll do my best to represent you tonight,'” Davis said.
He finished with 11 tackles and an interception.
Kentucky discontinued that practice this season — it became difficult for the Oats family to see the No. 22 on the field. Instead, the team breaks down every practice with a “22!” Everyone has Oats Strong T-shirts made by Gamble; they’re selling hoodies now, too.
Davis wears a 22 Oats Strong band on his wrist, leaving it on for some games. Sumrall said when Oats attends games, he takes the freshmen over to see him; he wants them to know someone who he said “will forever be a Wildcat.”
‘This is not your end’
While it’s a constant battle for Oats, he isn’t jealous of his friend. He watches Washington’s games when he can and seeks out YouTube highlights. He will text Davis reminders to play fast, play smart. They text weekly; sometimes Davis checks in with Gamble. Oats said Davis’ effort is there and “he just needs more time on that level.”
“I’m not the selfish type,” Oats said. “He got there because he is a freak athlete and his talent, and what I’ve learned during this hard time is that I will get there. It will just take time.”
Oats was the one who pressed his family to watch the draft. They wanted to support Davis.
“We talked to Jamin before the draft,” Gamble said. “We’ve always been supportive of everything, so [Chris] never felt, ‘Man, that should have been me.’ When Chris was able to talk after his stroke, or text, he told him, ‘Go out and ball, this is your time.'”
But there is a definite understanding of his own situation.
“He knows where he could have been to change all our lives,” Gamble said. “But I explained to him: As a mom, you being here and being able to touch you and not being six feet under — because we’ve lost so many people this year — that’s all I need. He’s an awesome kid; never in trouble. He went to school, got his scholarship and went to class and to be a year away from your dream and something like this happens, he doesn’t understand what he did wrong for this to happen to him. That’s where we encourage him and let him know, ‘This is not your end; you have a bigger testimonial in your life.'”
Oats has 100% control of his right side and has increased his left side to 50% — it was 40% just a month ago. He’s able to stand on his own and they’re working on strengthening his core to help him walk again. For now, he’s doing occupational therapy twice a week, allowing him to slowly regain independence. They would like to get him into a physical therapy facility that deals mostly with athletes, key for his 6-foot-3, 227-pound frame.
He attended Kentucky’s home games this season and saw the Wildcats play Georgia last year. His mom found it too tough to attend last year, but has gone this season. She reads her son for clues as to his emotions.
“I make sure I pay attention to his eyes and facial expressions,” she said. “I can tell when it’s too much. He does this thing with his eyes, they get real big and he bites on his fingernails. He’s been like that since he was a kid. That hasn’t changed since the stroke. When he’s getting ready to tear up or holding back tears, his eyes get big.”
He’s constantly watching games, whether of Kentucky or other teams, and he attends high school games on Friday nights. Oats said he tries not to cry while watching games, “but I do get in my thoughts.”
When that happens, he said he turns to a prayer from the book of Isaiah: “No weapon formed against me shall prosper.”
He needed that prayer the first time he watched an NFL game after the stroke. He told his mom: “I should be playing.” She said: “Just get healthy; it’s a blessing you’re alive. Football is just a job; it’s not who you are.”
The simple things
Gamble needed to quit her $11-an-hour florist job to take care of her son full time. She also moved the family into a larger apartment, though that increased her rent by $400. Her 26-year-old daughter, KeAirra, also helps, and Davis has chipped in. Insurance pays some of Oats’ medical costs and a GoFundMe has raised more than $150,000 that helps with living expenses and allows them to buy a custom-made van.
Gamble proudly says they live within their means. But she does splurge for him once a year when it comes to sneakers. She would take some of her tax return money and buy him a pair of size 15 LeBrons, something she did again this past spring for $189. Though he’s still on scholarship and gets shoes from Kentucky, he uses these in therapy.
“I don’t spoil him or give everything he wants,” she said, “but the simple things that people take for granted is joy for him.”
This was the best birthday smile ever pic.twitter.com/j0EqhP8Uci
— Kcoats22 (@kcoats22) November 10, 2021
Oats wants to become an announcer or a coach; he wants to stay around the game. He wants to get back to himself.
“Football is his first love, and it hurts,” Gamble said. “I tell him to talk it out. He has anxiety over things. It was rough. This is a rough season for us, but he’s making it.”
Last month, Oats posted a picture on Twitter of himself, Square and Davis from a practice. Oats is sitting on the ground, his boys on either side. They are smiling. Sometimes he posts photos of the past; sometimes it’s of the present.
But Davis said he doesn’t need the photos to remember Oats’ impact. He thinks of Oats, whether it’s at practice or even on game day: “All the time; literally, it’s all the time.”
“It’s a constant reminder that this could be taken at any given moment,” Davis said. “There’s no reason why you shouldn’t go out and play like every snap will be your last. You should be early to meetings, doing whatever you can to go out and play ball and have fun. … The only thing you can do in this situation is make him and his family proud. We’ll always be close.”
Oats said football remains a part of him. Right now, though, his proudest moments aren’t about his tackles but rather something basic yet profound: “That I will be able to walk and talk again.”
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