OXNARD, Calif. – For the first time in two years, the Cowboys are officially back in California for the start of training camp.
While things are starting to look somewhat normal again, it's still a different setup, thanks to the restrictions of COVID-19. In the opening press conference, that included Cowboys owner/GM Jerry Jones, Cowboys chief operating officer Stephen Jones and head coach Mike McCarthy, they fielded dozens of questions, many of which regarded the team's stance regarding COVID and the vaccine.
Here are some of the highlights of Wednesday's press conference from Oxnard.
- Jerry Jones said this year's training camp provides "more challenges than ever before," regarding mostly the COVID-19 protocols. But he also mentioned that having dealt with this last year has fully prepared them for this year. While not all players and coaches are fully vaccinated, the Cowboys announced the team is "in the pipeline" to be at 85 percent, meaning there are still a few that need a second shot. But Jerry Jones said "we'll be able to play anybody in the Hall of Fame game" against the Steelers on Aug. 5 in Canton, Ohio.
- Jerry Jones was asked to comment on Michael Irvin's recent comments about the Cowboys not being fully vaccinated and how it shows a lack of commitment to winning. "I think Michael Irvin is the best example that I know how much that will and how much that heart and sacrifices means to winning. When he talks I listen." But Jones also tried to clarify that Irvin's comments aren't exactly directed towards specific players. He also added that the team "has no competitive disadvantage. We are right there with the same spot with other teams, ready to compete. We can stand up with any team and compete, relative to all the issues regarding the vaccine."
- Stephen Jones said "my hat's off to them" in reference to the players and their decision with the vaccine. "They understand. They did their homework. We provided them with a lot of information and education." He added that he believes they would "hit the 85 percent threshold and more."
- Head coach Mike McCarthy admitted he wasn't fully on board with getting the vaccine but after many discussions and research, he changed his stance and decided to get the shot. McCarthy shared the story seemingly to say he respects the hesitation some of his players and coaches have.
- When asked about Dak Prescott, recovering from the ankle injury and his first camp since he received his new contract, Mike McCarthy praised his quarterback's consistency. "He's the same man every day. He's been in the facility every single day since the injury." McCarthy also said his leadership quality is needed when you get a contract like the one Dak received, paying him $40 million a year. He said "the responsibility you have Monday through Saturday greatly increases" and nobody embodies that more than Prescott.
- As for Dak's schedule, McCarthy said he expects him to be a full participant. "Unless something comes out of the medical meetings and we'll see how it goes. But we kept him out of the team drills (during the offseason), but he'll participate in the team drills."
- McCarthy reiterated the importance of "establishing a winning culture. I'm excited to get on the field and get going and start building what we know we can accomplish. At the end of the day, it's about winning a championship. Nothing else matters." McCarthy said "training camp is the most important part for a football team. Just watching the guy interact last night, there's so much we can do emotionally with the bond and the setup of being here. I'm excited to get started."
- When asked about expectations, Jerry Jones said he knows having Dak healthy again, along with the offensive line, will help them get the team's arrow up again. But he also said he "would think it's going to be a different ball game" on the defensive side of the ball. "We've got size, we've got speed," said Jones, who is pointing towards defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and his ability to put players in a position to succeed.
- Jerry Jones got excited when asked about Randy Gregory, whose career has often been halted by off-the-field issues and suspensions. But he's here at training camp for just the second time in his career. "He's got a lot of tread left on the tire. Hasn't had a lot of wear and tear on his body. What's out ahead of him is what excites me the most."
- The history between Jerry Jones and Jimmy Johnson's relationship has been well documented. And with Johnson going into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this August, the situation has come up again. While Jones didn't answer the question if Johnson would go into the Ring of Honor, saying the focus should remain on the Hall of Fame, he did admit that he had regrets of not having more "deference" with the relationship with Jimmy and he said he still doesn't know how he (messed) it up and changed something that was working. "It was my responsibility to keep it together," Jones said.