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How Does Mike McCarthy Prep For The Unknown?


FRISCO, Texas – Mike McCarthy is doing everything he can to get ready. The obvious problem is that he's not sure what he's getting ready for quite yet.

It goes without saying at this point. The world has been turned upside down by the outbreak of COVID-19. And while there are far greater problems to address than the loss, and eventual return, of professional sports, it's still an issue for McCarthy, the Cowboys and the entire NFL to sort through.

To this point in the offseason, it leaves the Cowboys' first-year coach with quite the challenge: trying to acquaint himself with a new team and a new scheme, while simultaneously preparing for a training camp he can't envision yet.

"We've really just hunkered down and tried to focus on the things we can control," McCarthy said Wednesday. "And as a staff, we're planning for a full training camp and we're also planning for a training camp in Oxnard, we're planning for a training camp in Frisco. We spent an enormous amount of time in the planning phase because it is our first camp together."

Training camp is at the epicenter of roughly 1,000 questions about the NFL's short-term future – none of which have any answers yet. And while that might be looming on the horizon, McCarthy said the first step for he and his coaching staff is to get back into the facility.

"I don't see a decision on training camp happening before that," he said. "And really, I don't have control of the factors that are involved or even a part of those factors involved to finalize that decision. My time has best been served in just the preparation."

That has obviously centered around a lot of video calls – a familiar story for many over the last three months. From his family home in Green Bay, McCarthy has logged countless hours with both his coaches and players, preparing from a logistics standpoint and a football standpoint.

"I feel like we've got a really good foundation there and now we've kind of gone into more of group meetings," he said. "We had an offensive team meeting this morning in trying to get more across the positions, talking to each other and the players are doing a good job of applying some of the new techniques and new things that we've talked about and applying it into their workouts and communicating it back to us."

There have been drawbacks. McCarthy joked Wednesday that his WebEx client doesn't have space for 90 different participants, so he hasn't been able to see his entire team, face-to-face. The virtual nature of this particular offseason has also limited the natural ability for bonding. In that regard, McCarthy said he has tried to keep his meetings focused on football and reaching milestones, knowing that personal relationships will come when the Cowboys can finally meet in person again.

"It was really just trying to keep things focused on the priorities of what we're trying to accomplish through the month of May and now going into the month of June," he said. "We have targets that we're setting each and every week."

McCarthy was reluctant to say he is behind where he would normally be. In his mind, this unprecedented situation makes it hard to compare to a typical offseason. Having said that, he can't ignore the truth of the matter.

"I think its obvious to think, if we started April 6 like we normally would as a first-year program, we would be in a different spot than we are here today," he said. "I am pleased with the amount of work that we have been able to accomplish. I think our coaches have been very creative."

It's interesting to think where things go from here. In a normal offseason, the Cowboys would be in the middle of their nine OTAs. Their mandatory June minicamp, marking the end of the offseason program, would be slated for mid-June.

Right now, it's hard to say what will happen instead. But McCarthy offered some wise words with the idea that, when plans are eventually made, things will likely move quickly. Adaptability is always important in the NFL, but it might be even more important in this landscape.

With that in mind, McCarthy's emphasis on prep work makes plenty of sense.

"You may used to be able to have 60 days to get a job done and everybody in our league is going to probably have more like 30 days," McCarthy said. "So I'm really focusing on maximizing the time and the meeting time and the most important things we need to get done when we do get back together. And frankly having the unknown out there, it causes a little more work on the preparation side of it and that's really where my focus has been."