ARLINGTON, Texas — Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott issued an apology Tuesday evening for comments made in the wake of his team’s wild-card playoff loss.
The Cowboys’ 23-17 loss to the San Francisco 49ers ended abruptly as Prescott and an official collided, the precious few seconds of the clock ticking down to zero before the Cowboys were lined up sufficiently to run their last play. Prescott later was told fans threw debris at officials. He voiced support for the rowdy gesture.
“I deeply regret the comments I made regarding the officials after the game on Sunday,” Prescott wrote in a series of tweets Tuesday. “I was caught up in the emotion of a disappointing loss and my words were uncalled for and unfair.
“I hold the NFL Officials in the highest regard and have always respected their professionalism and the difficulty of their jobs. The safety of everyone who attends a game or participates on the field of a sporting event is a very serious matter.
“That was a mistake on my behalf, and I am sorry.”
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The apology diverged from Prescott’s postgame demeanor.
Prescott had attempted a 17-yard run with 14 seconds to play in the NFC wild-card game. He thought four seconds remained on the clock when he raced back to reset the line of scrimmage and still two seconds after his teammates had lined up. But the official needed to spot the ball. The mechanics did not allow for that before time expired.
“The game is over,” an official declared, to Prescott’s disbelief.
Fans began throwing debris including beer and water bottles. Officials raced toward a tunnel exit.
Prescott was initially told fans hurled trash at players, as defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence had needed his helmet to deflect a bottle. Prescott said he hadn’t seen that. He condemned the gesture.
“That’s sad,” Prescott said. “I mean you’re talking about a team, you’re talking about men who come out each and every day of their lives and give everything to this sport, give everything to this game of football. Nobody wants to succeed more than we want to succeed.
“I understand fans and the word ‘fan’ for fanatic. I get that. But to know everything we put into this day in and day out, try our hardest, nobody comes into the game wanting or expecting to lose. For people to react that way when you’re supposed to be a supporter and be with us through thick and thin, that’s tough.”
Then a reporter told Prescott that fans were actually aiming at the officiating crew.
“Credit to them then,” Prescott said. “Yeah, credit to them.”
Dak Prescott asked about fans throwing debris after game. When thought fans throwing things at Cowboys, he was disappointed. Then he was told fans threw trash at officials.
“Credit to them then,” Dak said.
— Jori Epstein (@JoriEpstein) January 17, 2022
Laughter ensued as reporters assumed that Prescott, the Cowboys’ nominee for Walter Payton Man of the Year, was making a lighthearted jab reflective of the disappointment. Questions continued, Prescott discussing his play calls and offensive coordinator and feeling “like you let your teammates down. It’s a terrible feeling.”
Before Prescott concluded, a reporter asked: Did Prescott really mean to encourage fans throwing things at officials? Was that reflective of his postgame sentiment?
“Yeah,” Prescott said, doubling down. “If they weren’t at us, and if the fans felt the same way as us and that’s what they were doing it for, yeah I guess that’s why the refs took off and got out of there so fast. I think everybody is upset with the way that this thing played out. As I said, I’m sure a fan would be the same. Feel the same way we do.”
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Dak Prescott agreed when asked whether Cowboys underachieved. “Super Bowl or nothing” is standard.
On his own season: “Not good enough. Simple as that. I take a lot of pride in the job and accountability in this loss.” pic.twitter.com/4g0rxi5nhz
— Jori Epstein (@JoriEpstein) January 17, 2022
Monday passed with silence. Then, on Tuesday, NBA referees condemned Prescott’s comments.
“The NBRA condemns the comments by Dak Prescott condoning violence against game officials,” the association tweeted. “As an NFL leader, he should know better. We encourage the NFL to take action to discourage this deplorable behavior in the future.”
Three hours later, Prescott apologized.
Prescott signed a mega-extension with the Cowboys last March, a $160 million deal that will keep him in Dallas through at least 2024. He returned from a gruesome 2020 season-ending ankle injury to lead the Cowboys to a 12-5 record and an NFC East title, but Dallas was the lone team to lose at home during the wild-card weekend.
“Tough,” Prescott said. “Tough to accept.”
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein.