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Kevin Labanc Jersey
, Texas (AP) — Dak Prescott barks at his
teammates a little more now that he’s a couple of years removed from a
sensational rookie year with the Dallas Cowboys.

At least that’s the way tight end Geoff Swaim put it, and he didn’t mean it
in a negative way. The star quarterback sure hopes so.

“I may be a little bit more vocal,” Prescott said. “But when you say
‘barking,’ it’s almost like at a negative tone. Like, you’re going out at them
hard. I’d say if anything, I’m trying to be more encouraging and bring more out
of them.

“When you have a young team and different personalities, it’s hard just to be
negative and be critical the whole time. For me, it’s a lot about coaching the
guys up. And then the guys that I know I can be critical on, yeah, sure I

The 2016 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Frans
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, who opens the season Sunday at Carolina
trying to get the Cowboys back to the playoffs after they missed during his
less-than-stellar encore , just illustrated offensive coordinator Scott
Linehan’s take on leadership from Prescott.

Sure, this 25-year-old with a master’s degree in workforce education
leadership from Mississippi State is the unquestioned commander of the offense —
and that includes over running back Ezekiel Elliott, his fellow first-year
standout from 2016.

But it’s not necessarily because of the retirement of Tony Romo, the
quarterback he replaced with one of the best debuts for a quarterback in NFL

Or because 15-year tight end Jason Witten joined Romo in the broadcast booth
this year. Or because the Cowboys dumped boisterous receiver Dez Bryant, the
franchise leader in touchdown catches, in a cost-cutting move.

Since Prescott showed up as the forgotten third-teamer on Romo’s team two
years ago, he has shown the leadership qualities that suddenly became more
pronounced. He was a natural to become the face of the franchise , and would be
by himself if not for linebacker Sean Lee.

“He’s always been a guy that, even as a rookie Kevin
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, he was not afraid to speak up and give his two
cents on the field and encourage guys,” Linehan said. “He’s a natural when it
comes to that.”

Prescott led the Cowboys to 11 straight wins after Romo injured his back in
the preseason in 2016, when Dallas had an NFC-best 13 victories before losing to
Green Bay in a divisional playoff.

Elliott’s six-game suspension marred their second season together, and
Prescott felt the burden of the absence.

The poor decisions he avoided as a rookie were more frequent, including an
ill-advised throw that was intercepted and returned for a touchdown in a
late-season loss to Seattle that finished off Dallas’ playoff hopes in Elliott’s
first game back.

The theme last season was whether Prescott could avoid a sophomore slump, a
term he brushed off. Now it’s whether he can have a bounce-back season, if there
is such a thing for a young quarterback.

“You can call it whatever you call it,” he said. “I’m excited for what we’re
going to have and the year we’re going to have and I feel very, very confident
in the players we have and the team we have and what we’re going to do this

There are questions, starting with a revamped receiving corps that lacks the
star power brought by Witten and Bryant.

The Cowboys say they’ll attack the passing game with versatility ,
hoping to take advantage of one-on-one matchups with opponents focusing first on
stopping Elliott, the league rushing leader when Prescott was voted the top
offensive rookie.

There are two new starters on Dallas’ vaunted offensive line. Joe Looney is
replacing Travis Frederick at center while the four-time Pro Bowler recovers
from Guillain-Barre syndrome, an auto-immune disease that attacks nerves. He
doesn’t know when he will return. Rookie second-round pick Connor Williams is at
left guard.

Despite the questions, Prescott is determined not to try to do too much

“I know I’ll be better,” he said. “I just learned so much from last year,
just moving forward, mature within the game, just learned a lot more that I
didn’t know last year that I wasn’t as comfortable with. Just reads, my game on
footwork, accuracy and consistency Womens
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, everything.”

Learning isn’t stopping him from coaching, as he put it.

“I think as a rookie it was more encouraging and that kind of thing,” Swaim
said. “This year, the barking, it’s not like he’s screaming and yelling. That’s
not his thing. It’s more just, ‘Hey, this is what you need to do here.’ And it’s
good because it keeps everyone focused and in their role and doing their

Prescott just wants you to know it’s not negative.

Blue Jays fans gave New
York Mets slugger Jose Bautista a standing ovation before his first at bat as a
visiting player since leaving Toronto at the end of last season.

The two-time home run champion took off his helmet and acknowledged both the
crowd and the Blue Jays dugout as fans rose for a prolonged ovation. Bautista
drew a five-pitch walk and scored when Asdrubal Cabrera followed with a home

Before the game, Bautista drew another ovation at the end of a video tribute
featuring highlights of his 10 seasons with the Blue Jays, including
back-to-back ALCS appearances in 2015 and 2016.

The six-time All-Star exchanged warm embraces with several former Blue Jays
teammates during batting practice and signed autographs for fans alongside New
York’s first base dugout. Fans in right field rose to applaud Bautista as he
took his position in the bottom of the first.

Bautista played 12 games for Atlanta in May and joined the Mets on May 22.
He’s batting .250 with three homers and 13 RBIs in 36 games with New
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