FRISCO, Texas — There’s still a little of what Micah Parsons calls, “a rookie year Micah,” in him — the fun-loving, goofy kid enjoying everything that comes with the life of a Dallas Cowboys superstar.
He can show up at a charity home run derby with his own baseball bat and nobody will blink an eye.
It’s just Micah being Micah.
“I’m a content creator, I’m just going to put it like that,” Parsons laughed, adding, “If football don’t work out no more, I’m going to content.”
Football has worked out for Parsons quite well so far. The defensive end/linebacker had 26.5 sacks in his first two seasons are sixth most since sacks became an official sack in 1982. Only Parsons, Aldon Smith and Reggie White have opened their careers with two seasons of at least 13 sacks. He has been the runner-up for NFL Defensive Player of the Year twice.
But here’s where Parsons starts to move away from “rookie Micah” and understands what effect he wants to have on the game in Year 3.
“I’m kinda off the sack wave. I’m onto the impact wave,” he said. “Like, you see [Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle] Aaron Donald. He can have 12 sacks, but the impact he makes is like so dominant, like you can tell. I’m really just wanting to be dominant. Then you see guys have 16, 17 sacks, but they’re not considered a guy. I want to be a guy. Not one of the guys.
“If you’re always chasing, then you’re never achieving. You feel me? So I’m not chasing for something. I’m trying to achieve and being greater than someone that’s chasing.”
Parsons is 24, younger than two of the Cowboys’ 2023 draft picks: second-round tight end Luke Schoonmaker and sixth-round cornerback Eric Scott Jr. Yet, his importance to the success of the Cowboys is unquestioned. He is as key to the defense as quarterback Dak Prescott is to the offense.
Last season, Parsons led edge rushers in pass rush win rate (30%). He had six games with double-digit sacks despite being double teamed on 30% of his pass-rush attempts. After playing mostly as an off-the-ball linebacker as a rookie in 2021, he was mostly an edge player in 2022.
When he said he was gaining some weight this offseason to deal with the rigors of playing closer to the line of scrimmage, some assumed he would become a full-time defensive end.
“He’s a pass-rushing linebacker,” defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said. “So if you ever need position changes, come to me. I think what he was probably trying to say is that, ‘I’m really emphasizing some pass rush into my offseason.’”
Parsons was listed at 248 pounds by the Cowboys last year, but he said he played most of the year at 245 pounds. His goal is to play this year at 250 pounds, maybe 252 pounds.
Do five pounds make that much of a difference?
“You ever pick up a dumbbell, a 35 [pounder], and you’re like, ‘Oh, this is easy,’” Parsons asked. “You go like five more pounds and you’re like. ‘Oh, f—, my arm.’ It’s just like that. It might not be a substantial difference, but it’s just a difference in how you feel and, like, the power you want.”
Parsons spent most of the offseason in Austin, Texas, working out at The Kollective. He did not take part in the first two phases of the Cowboys’ offseason program, showing up for the start of the organized team activities.
“It’s not so much that I don’t want to be with the guys,” Parsons said. “It’s more like how can I invest in myself? Personally, we’ve all got different mentors. One person can learn from a teacher at a high rate, and someone might learn from their class buddy a lot more.”
While he was away, he kept in contact with Quinn and defensive line coach Aden Durde. Executive vice president Stephen Jones said he wasn’t worried about Parsons not being at The Star much for the voluntary program.
Coach Mike McCarthy added: “He’s going to compete at everything he does. That’s just the way he’s wired. Obviously with the athletic and physical gifts that he has, but his drive and competitive spirit is as good as I’ve seen in a young player.”
McCarthy saw Clay Matthews’ development with the Green Bay Packers and had Julius Peppers close to the end of the future Hall of Famer’s career in Green Bay. He said Parsons’ next jump is to make those around him better.
“Individually, he will always be extremely impactful, and that’s why it’s important for us to really stay focused on creating as many of those opportunities for him,” McCarthy said. “And I think that’s the whole conversation of where he’s going to line up. And I’m just telling you from an offensive perspective, when you line up a premier player at the same spot, it’s easier to apply help there.”
Parsons half-jokingly said he would play eight positions in 2023, all across the front seven and even in some coverage.
“I’m telling you, I’m going to do it all,” Parsons said. “It’s going to be a year to remember for sure.”