OXNARD, Calif. – After a year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Cowboys are back out west for training camp.
For Cowboys owner/GM Jerry Jones, that means the team is "back to business" – returning to some level of normalcy with a significant portion of players and staff vaccinated and that number expected to rise in the coming weeks.
And for head coach Mike McCarthy, Year 2 on the job feels a lot like what Year 1 was supposed to be.
"This is our first opportunity as a football team to have a true training camp," McCarthy said at Wednesday's camp-opening press conference. "We are so blessed and fortunate to have this facility, the set-up. ... We're all just excited to get on the field, get going and start building what we know we can accomplish."
Last year's training camp was anything but normal. After a completely virtual offseason program, the Cowboys held an abbreviated camp in mid-August with no preseason games. They had a new coaching staff, new schemes and restrictions on communicating with players. McCarthy has acknowledged that the virtual component of meetings wasn't good enough.
Throw in an "inordinate" number of injuries to top-level starters, as Cowboys chief operating officer Stephen Jones said, and the club finished 6-10 with no postseason for the second straight year.
Back in breezy Oxnard (where the club has trained most often for the last 20 years) and with relaxed COVID-19 protocols for vaccinated players and staff, this year's camp feels like a fresh start.
McCarthy was pleased with the team's eight schematic installations during OTAs and minicamp in the spring. So much, in fact, that he expects more situational work (i.e. two-minute drills, etc.) earlier in camp than previous Green Bay Packers teams he coached.
"I can't say enough about our offseason program," he said. "We definitely hit all the targets that we wanted to, and even some of the challenges that we didn't foresee coming that were upon us in the first three or four weeks, our players did a phenomenal job."
The Cowboys will ease into camp practice. Per league rules, the pads can't come until Day 7 of camp. But over the next three weeks in Oxnard, McCarthy sees a chance to build a foundation toward the goal every team has.
"At the end of the day, it's about winning a world championship. Nothing else really matters," said McCarthy, who won a Super Bowl with the Packers in 2010. "It's a long ways away. You look at these opportunities each and every year. It's a really about a 300-day process. We're 92, 93 days into that process.
"Training camp is most important part for a football team. I think the fact that we're away, and the set-up, and just watching the guys interact last night, there's so much that we can do emotionally with the connection and the bonds that are formed in this type of set-up here. I'm just looking forward to getting started."