FROM HOME, Texas – Surprised?
Come on, no you are not. That reportedly more than Ezekiel Elliot, but less than five Cowboys have tested positive for COVID-19? Was inevitable. Will be inevitable as we go forward.
There has been this false sense of security now that restaurants are opening wider, along with those previously-closed, non-essential businesses, and that colleges and high schools are being allowed to begin strength and conditioning training, with the NBA and NHL poised to begin training camps, a prelude to resuming their seasons.
The masks have come off.
The coronavirus has not, not here in Texas. Wait, more specifically, not here in North Texas, where the numbers for those testing positive continue to rise on a daily basis. So it was bound to happen when you do not have complete control of 90 players on a roster, and likely will not until the NFL gives the official go-ahead to begin training camps in a little more than a month.
OK, Ezekiel Elliott has been outed, confirmed for some reason by his agent, Rocky Arceneaux. But when it's reported there are "multiple" other Cowboys testing positive, but no more than five, then the other 89 have been indicted, right? Everyone becomes a candidate to fit into that box.
Fist-bump for all the safety protocols being put in place. How the NFL wants players and employees checked on a regular basis; how facilities must be sanitized to hospital grade. But how do you control player activity outside the organization?
That's why last week's _shot_ gave me pause, Tampa Bay head coach Bruce Arians coming up with the novel idea of always having one quarterback on his roster quarantined from the rest of the team, as if on some sort of COVID reserve list. Just stay away until you're needed if another quarterback must be quarantined for two weeks. Just want a healthy QB always in my back pocket.
NFL might need to come up with a two-week CR – COVID Reserve – where teams can place a player testing positive and be replaced on the official roster, be it 90 in training camp or 55 during the season. Seems reasonable. Then eligible to return after quarantine or deemed healthy.
Some might say, well, you have an expanded practice squad. Great, but what happens if a few of those guys have to be quarantined? Face it, and you know the saying, there is _no crying in baseball_. Well, I'm guessing, there is _no social-distancing_ in football. It's a darn contact sport.
So here we are, June 17, and the NFL still is a day-to-day proposition.
- Empty Hall: Pointed out last week the Cowboys start to training camp is contingent on if the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Aug. 6 in Canton, Ohio, will be played or not, that Hall president Dave Baker says there are five contingencies for the game and induction on Aug. 8, scheduled to involve former Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson and then a month later Cowboys Ring of Honor member Cliff Harris. Well, Baker's first contingency might have been just scratched off – playing the game as scheduled in front of a sold-out 22,000 crowd. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine just waved the caution flag on the Hall of Fame Game, saying this week, "As much as I hate to say this, because we've all been looking forward to that and I know how much it means to the Canton area and the Stark County area and really across the country, it's a great, great event that we've been looking forward to, (but) having a crowd that size is highly unlikely. Certainly, it could not occur today. It would be very dangerous to do it today. Again, we have to see where we are at that point, but that's a large crowd, a lot of people together." So as we've been doing for the better part of three months now, mark that game as WS – we'll see.
- Last Call: The Cowboys have joined several other teams in the NFL announcing that Friday, June 19th, better known as "Juneteenth," will be a company holiday, celebrating the Emancipation Proclamation in Texas. Must have been Doggie Express bringing the news of President Abraham Lincoln's announcement of having abolished slavery on Jan. 1, 1863 to these parts. What, no phones in Texas? No E-Mail? That news did not arrive until June 19, 1865, in the Lone Star State, two months after the end of the Civil War. Gen. Gordon Granger read the federal order in Galveston.
- History Lesson: Saw this note on NFL.com, saying the Cowboys could only hope new head coach Mike McCarthy follows Barry Switzer's lead, having led the Cowboys to a 12-4 record and the NFC title game in his first year as head coach. That commending Switzer, and comparing his first year to only that of Jason Garrett (8-8 in 2011), Tom Landry (0-11-1 in 1960) and Jimmy Johnson (1-15 in 1989). Man, how 'bout some 'splaining. Landry's was an expansion team with no college draft for that season. Johnson was taking over a 3-13 team, a third consecutive losing season under Landry. Garrett was taking over a 6-10 team after Wade Phillips was fired in 2010 for his 1-7 start, serious rebuilding in need. Switzer? Uh, he inherited back-to-back Super Bowl champions from 1992-93 (13-3, 12-4). Maybe the writer wasn't around back then, but Switzer was badly criticized for not winning a third consecutive Super Bowl. Oh, and as for first-year records of Cowboys head coaches, Phillips did go 13-3 in 2007, matching the best record in franchise history, while Chan Gailey went 10-6 in 1998, as did Bill Parcells in 2003, all three teams losing first-round playoff games.
- Tell Me This: Here we go again with Colin Kaepernick, who last played in the NFL in 2016. Are you signing him to be your Day 1 starter, sight unseen, since teams are not allowed to work out players until the start of camp? That is, if he's willing to work out. And if you do sign him, how much are you paying him? Guarantees? Or, maybe you're signing him for depth purposes, which certainly is reasonable. But … have never heard him say he's good with settling for a backup role, along with agreeing to backup pay, laced with incentives. Then again, first time your starter throws two picks and you lose, fans will be clamoring for Kapernick to start. If the team doesn't, will be accused of not doing so because of kneeling past. Ticklish situation.
- Brian's Song: Can't believe it's been 50 years ago yesterday, June 16, 1970, when former Bears running back Brian Piccolo died of embryonal cell carcinoma. A little more than a year later debuted the movie Brian's Song, the emotional story of the amazing relationship between Piccolo and Bears teammate Gale Sayers. James Cann portrays Piccolo and Sayers by Billy Dee Williams. Having grown up in the shadows of that story in Chicago, guessing I've watched the movie at least 10 times. Worth watching again. Bet I cry again, too.
And let's end on an uptick. The Cowboys have seven players listed on the College Football Hall of Fame ballot just announced, five on what was known back then from D-I schools and two from Division I-AA. They are offensive tackle Flozell Adams (Michigan State), linebacker Jack Del Rio (USC), linebacker Ken Norton Jr. (UCLA), safety Roy Williams (Oklahoma), kicker Luis Zendejas (Arizona State), running back Timmy Newsome (Winston-Salem) and quarterback Tony Romo (Eastern Illinois), the Walter Payton Player of the Year Award winner in 2002.