FRISCO, Texas – Mike McCarthy's message to his team Monday morning was a simple one.
If the Cowboys' head coach can contract COVID-19, then anyone is susceptible.
"I told them, hey if it can get me it can get anybody," McCarthy said Monday. "'d like to think that I was super cautious and careful."
McCarthy received notice that he had been the Cowboys latest positive COVID test around 7 a.m. Monday morning. Ironically, the news came just days after he had checked himself into the Cowboys' on-campus Omni hotel as a precaution. His coaching staff was already dealing with a rash of cases, as both of the team's offensive line coaches, as well as an offensive assistant and the strength and conditioning staff are all currently in the protocol.
The decision was also made in part to try and protect his family, though he allowed that several of his family members have tested positive, as well.
"You know, I was trying to keep this from not coming home and I didn't," he said. "I didn't succeed there either. I just thought, if I get in front of this and stay at the hotel, it would help out."
Fortunately, there haven't been any adverse effects so far. To this point, McCarthy mainly feels a scratchy throat – a symptom that he originally attributed to the rigors of coaching through a game on Thursday evening.
That said, this will present a bit of a new challenge for a league mainstay. Other than the 2019 season, when he was in between head coaching jobs, McCarthy has been an NFL coach since the 1993 season, when he did quality control for the Kansas City Chiefs.
Of these 27 years, McCarthy said this will be the first time he has missed a game while still part of a coaching staff.
"I think I'll be part of your guys' group chat, looking forward to being one of the guys, hanging out, you guys keep me posted," he joked. "It'll be a great evaluation process for me to learn hanging out with the media."
There's still plenty of work to do before McCarthy can settle in to watch this game from a distance, though. The Cowboys went through virtual meetings before and after practice on Monday, and that'll be the plan again Tuesday.
McCarthy and his coaches are still working through all of the mechanics for Thursday night's game, from his game day speech to the team to everyone's sideline and booth responsibilities against the Saints. Regardless of how they iron it all out, McCarthy was adamant they'll be ready.
"We'll be prepared for the game, I can promise you that," he said.
The Cowboys are 65% of the way through their 2021 season, but anyone would be forgiven for mistaking this week with something out of 2020. After all, it was this exact time last year that the Cowboys' game after Thanksgiving, a Thursday night trip to Baltimore, was postponed five days by a COVID outbreak.
They eventually lost that game to the Ravens, 34-17, to wrap up back-to-back losses and a stretch that saw them lose six of seven. As McCarthy seemed to indicate, those trials helped them down the home stretch, as last year's Cowboys team managed to win three of four.
"This is a tough spot, but I'll just say history will tell you we'll be better from it," he said. "We've been playing a lot of players, a lot of young players, so the adversity of what's in front of us I think we're prepared for it and that will be our approach."
Obviously, the preference is that the Cowboys find a way to win this Thanksgiving follow up, giving them some positive vibes heading into a short break before this year's home stretch.
McCarthy won't be there Thursday to help them pull that off, but it sounds as if he's doing everything in his power to have them ready.