FROM HOME, Texas – It's beginning to look a lot like …
The rookies and those vets rehabbing injuries and from surgeries are in. The remaining vets are in testing protocol through Friday. And if all goes well, by that first week in August, new Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy will address his entire team for the first time. In person at that.
Of course, from social distances, with team-issued masks mandatory.
Seems like it's been forever, doesn't it? Maybe even longer than that since the majority of us are still working from home. But at least it's a start, baby steps for sure. And to remind you how small, think about this:
At this time last year, July 29, 2019, the Cowboys were two days away from their first day off at training camp in Oxnard, Calif. Zeke already had missed three practices. It was Military Appreciation Day. Rookie free agent Luke Gifford already had made an impression on the coaching staff.
Oh, and when we woke up that morning at the River Ridge Sports Complex, it was 61 degrees on Dak's 26th birthday.
How things do change. For sure Dak, too, since now turning 27 today he's scheduled to make $31.4 million on the franchise tag. Like, $29.375 million more than when he turned 26.
So let's begin these _shots_ with a shot at giving you a little itinerary of things to come, as the NFL, in conjunction with the NFLPA, has sent out.
July 28-31: The remaining veterans will undergo COVID-19 testing, two straight days on Tuesday and Wednesday, wait 24 hours and test again on Friday. Must test negative those three times to be allowed into The Star.
Aug. 1-2: Those veterans allowed into The Star will take their physicals and be fitted for equipment.
Aug. 3-11: Ramp up begins with 60-minute weight room workouts; 60 minutes of on-field conditioning. Those last four days teams can add in walk-through sessions.
Aug. 12-13: Can begin practicing in helmets and shorts, so basically OTA-like on-field practices, with 90-minute limits that can increase another 15 minutes as the days go by, but not to exceed two hours.
Aug. 14 and 16: Can add shells to those helmet and shorts workouts, but no contact.
Aug. 15: Time for a day off after four months of days off – at least from being at The Star.
Aug. 16: Rosters must be reduced from the presumed 90 to no more than 80 players before the first padded practice.
Aug. 17-Sept. 6: Can hold no more than 14 padded practices over those 20 days.
Sept. 7: Labor Day, first regular-season day of practice.
And cross your fingers, everyone hopes.
- Don't Ask: Just glad that no one really has, but, like, why didn't the Cowboys pull the trigger on that trade for Jets linebacker and suburban Dallas homeboy Jamal Adams the way the Seahawks did? Even you guys know better. That trade was a heist for a strong safety, the Jets gaining two first-round picks, a third-round pick and a starting-quality player (safety Bradley McDougald) for Adams and a fourth-round pick. Remember, the Seahawks, even though it seems Adams will play for his 2020 fourth-year base salary ($3.98 million), must re-sign a guy who has been asking for more than $15 million a year, and likely before his fifth-year option the Jets had already claimed for $9.86 million. Cap space does not grow on trees, and at this point likely will go down next year without nearly as many fans in the stands. No can do.
- Safety First: And no pun intended here. That basically is what Cowboys' fourth-round draft choice Tyler Biadasz said on a conference call Wednesday when asked about McCarthy's message to the youngsters. He was very specific on how to be really responsible trying to stay safe in the pandemic environment we're in, and to always be wearing a mask every time you can. "It's really been a concrete message, safety first," the rookie center said. "When we get off the field, put your mask back on and social distance. … His message was clear that we are facing more than just football; we're facing COVID-19, which the whole world is doing. Told us to be accountable and respectful to everyone on the team." That was the impression McCarthy made, before anything about football, and rightfully so.
- Light 'Em Up: You know how these days at restaurants you're given a little device when placed on the waiting list that will start buzzing and flash red lights when your table is ready. Well, Biadasz pointed out that the players, upon entry to The Star, are given a social-distancing device that will flash as a reminder when they are too close to someone else, especially in position and team meetings that will not be held in confined meeting rooms. Open spaces are key, and the Cowboys are thanking their expensive stars for Ford Center, where distance can be created for more of an open-air meeting.
- Mind Ps and Qs: A memo was sent out to the players emphasizing they will be held responsible for high-risk conduct in public during this coronavirus pandemic. High-risk conduct was defined as an indoor nightclub with more than 15 people; an indoor bar with more than 15 people unless picking up food; an indoor house party with more than 15 people; an indoor music concert/entertainment event with more than 15 people; and even attending an indoor religious service with more than 25 percent capacity. If proven a player tests positive for COVID-19 by violating any of these stipulations, teams can petition to place the player on non-football injury list, meaning a potential loss of pay.
- Camp Shots: And don't we wish that means a COVID-19 vaccine, but instead, here are a few tidbits, including since quarterbacks are so important, and there are usually no more than three or four in camp – the Cowboys are expected to have four – those quarterback meetings likely will be held virtually, teams doing all they can to make sure there is no spread among those highly-valuable players … Teams were told if they conducted split-practices between team facilities and their stadium, 90-man rosters would be allowed, but Ford Center was considered part of the Cowboys' team facility so they'll have to get down to 80 … The Cowboys have placed three players on the non-football injury list, including wide receiver Jon'Vea Johnson for COVID-19 reasons – either tested positive or came in contact with someone who did – along with last year's practice squad running back Jordan Chunn and rookie free-agent defensive tackle Garrett Marino … Two key NFC East players have opted out this season: Eagles wide receiver Marquise Goodwin from the Dallas area and University of Texas, who figured to be one of Philly's top three receivers, along with Giants potential starting tackle Nate Solder, both for family concerns … And to prove we are getting close here, Dallas Cowboys Star Magazine's Training Camp 2020 issue is now available, complete with scouting reports on each player, a breakdown of each position, a feature on McCarthy and, of course, the annual pullout schedule. Go to DallasCowboys.com/star to purchase.
And with veteran COVID-19 testing just in its second day, there will be positive tests coming, just as Eagles starting offensive tackle Lane Johnson, who announced he tested positive. This is why the last word today goes to Biadasz when asked what he normally does after the work day is completed: "I'll walk over to the hotel. I'm doing my part as best as possible, so I stay in my room. That's about it. … We're really practicing and doing our part for social-distancing purposes. We are not taking this lightly. We need to do this for our team and the whole league. It's really crucial that we social distance. I take it pretty seriously."
More of that will give the NFL – and the rest of us – a fighting chance.