Dallas Cowboys linebacker/defensive end Micah Parsons is not 100 percent.
He is hurt and he is hurting.
Parsons has played the past two games with an injured left hand, one that was so heavily bandaged in the 27-13 victory against the Tennessee Titans that it looked like a club.
Parsons essentially played the game with one hand to grab and tackle. Parsons is also beat up like never before after playing largely defensive end for the bulk of the season and getting doubled, tripled and chipped during every play.
But sitting out and resting, which is akin to quitting in Parsons’ mind, is not an option or even a consideration — not for Sunday’s season final against the Washington Commanders or not ever.
The Cowboys (12-4) have already secured a spot in the playoffs and could win the NFC East title with a win against Washington and a loss by the Philadelphia Eagles (13-2) against the New York Giants.
“That’s just being a dog,” Parsons said. “Does you will outweigh your injuries or your mental? Everything is your will, your mindset. I got this no quit mentality. As much as I may want to sit down, I may want to give up but I never do it just because that’s just me. That’s my mentality.”
That’s not the way his mom raised him or taught up growing up in Harrisburg, Pa., when he would see Sherese Parson cry and fight to make sure the family was warm during cold winter nights.
Parsons remembers his mom taking him to see get canisters filled with gas to heat up their home.
He also remembers the day he said he didn’t want to make the 30-minute trip with her.
“First time I seen my mom cry. And as much as she hurt. She used to just always just keep getting up and keep getting up [to get the canisters],” Parson recalled. “And I remember one time I was like, ‘Mom, I want to do this no more.’ But she said ‘have you ever seen me quit?’ As hard as it may get, that moment made me sit back and reflect on myself for that. I never ever quit anything in life.”
There is simply no quit in Parsons as he endures the toughest and what hopes will end up as the most fulfilling season of his life.
Parsons still listed as a linebacker but he has spent the bulk of the season at defensive end for much of the season and those numbers have grown decidedly over the last seven games when Parsons has logged 336 snaps at defensive end compared to just 18 at linebacker.
It has taken it’s toll on Parsons body.
“I mean it speaks to his endurance,” McCarthy said. “If you think about Micah, you look at a number of snaps he’s playing on the line versus off the line this year, they’re definitely up from last year and with that, there’s a lot more heavy lifting there for him. So I mean he’s endured it very well. Obviously played with the cast on his hand [against the Titans] and I thought he was being extremely productive and active. But you know, he handles it very well.”
It also may have taken him out of the NFL Defensive Player of the Year race.
Parsons finished his rookie season with 13 sacks, 20 tackles for loss, 30 QB hits and three forced fumbles. He was the unanimous NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2021 and placed second in NFL Defensive Player of the Year voting to Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt, who tied the single-season sack record in 2021.
Parsons opened the 2022 season as the front runner for the award and was seemingly on his way when he was second in the NFL with 12 sacks through the first 12 games of the season while leading a Cowboys defense that led league in sacks.
He has had one sack since and is now fourth heading into the final game, while San Francisco 49ers defensive end has emerged as the favorite for DPOY with a league-leading 17.5 sacks.
Parsons wants to win the award, but winning the Super Bowl is his primary focus.
He believes he learned a lesson last year about losing sight of what’s most important by putting so much energy into winning rookie of the year honors.
“I found myself chasing defensive rookie of the year,” Parsons said. “And when you put all your fruits and all your energy into an award, and when you finally get it, you push everything to the side. You don’t enjoy the moment. I don’t feel like I enjoyed my rookie year. Those awards are cool for the bookcase or your home case but really I learned this year the awards is in the team. You’re never going to get the same team again. You’re never really going to have these moments again with these guys. No one can guarantee they’re going to be here next year.
“This is really where the fun lies. If I can win Defensive Player of the Year and a Super Bowl in the same year, oh that’s a year.”
And all the hurting he’s feeling now will be well worth it.