FRISCO, Texas – Jerry Jones took the best shot he's ever taken against COVID-19.
And not talking about the multiple shots he jokingly suggests he's had on this past episode of Hard Knocks.
And it's no coincidence he fired off that shot on Tuesday during his weekly radio segment on 105.3 The Fan. For over the past several days, starting before Saturday night's third preseason game, the Cowboys have placed six players on the NFL's growingly-crowded Reserve/COVID-19 list, along with keeping defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, fully vaccinated, away from the team due to COVID protocols.
This darn variant is no joke. It's serious, especially for the unvaccinated. Why, high school football in North Texas is cranking up over the next three days and already – already! – 10 games have been canceled for COVID outbreaks on those teams.
So here is the shot Jerry took during that interview:
"You certainly don't want to be doing anything that causes your teammates to not be available. All of that comes to the same conclusion as far as what you agreed to be as far as a player, to be part of a team. You check I at the door, so to speak, it's about we. Everyone has the right to make their own decision in regards to their health and their body. I believe in that completely.
"Until the decision on yourself impacts negatively on others, then the common good takes over. I'm arm-waving here, but it has everything to do with how I look at our team and how I look at society."
From what we understand, as of Monday the Cowboys players are 93 percent vaccinated, while the remaining unvaccinated either have at least one shot or are within two weeks of having been fully vaccinated after the second shot.
Yet here we go. Quinn out until further notice. And while close-contact Israel Mukuamu has since cleared COVID protocols and returned to practice on Wednesday, there were Malik Hooker, Carlos Watkins, CeeDee Lamb still on Reserve/COVID-19 and joined on Wednesday by Demontae Kazee and Connor Williams.
And you could tell head coach Mike McCarthy was not a happy camper during Wednesday's press conference, having to discuss COVID for at least the first five minutes of the press conference with those _Hard Knocks_ cameras rolling for next Tuesday's Episode 4. Mike's big on scheduling continuity. Well, he's having to change things up, turning most meetings into last-year's virtual component.
And to further complicate the situation, safety Donovan Wilson had to leave Tuesday's practice with a groin issue, and who knows how long he will be out. Third running back Rico Dowdle, who's had a nice camp and preseason, suffered a hip injury and has been placed on season-ending injured reserve. And darn it, starting cornerback Trevon Diggs came down ill – not COVID-related – missing Wednesday's practice.
And to think we are now 15 days away from the Sept. 9 season opener against Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay. Not ideal.
No wonder the Cowboys owner took the shot at promoting the vaccine.
- Mash Unit: The missing in action continue to pile up as the close to training camp draws near. At the conclusion of Wednesday's practice the Cowboys had five players on Reserve/COVID-19, four players already on season-ending Reserve/Injured, one on Active/NFI, two still on Active/PUP and nine others on the active roster not practicing for injury-related issues. That's 20 guys unable to practice, leaving the Cowboys with just four healthy safeties.
- Shrinking PUP: Just two guys remain on Active/PUP, Chauncey Golston and Trysten Hill, now that kicker Greg Zuerlein has been activated. In Zuerlein's first live kicking session in team drills, he made five of eight attempts, showing he needs to knock off the rust and why he is expected to kick in Sunday's preseason game against Jacksonville. Remember, he missed all of training camp returning from early-May back surgery, and this will be an entirely new place-kick operation, with Jake McQuaide taking over long-snapping duties and new punter Bryan Anger the holder. As for Hill and Golston, there is a good chance they will remain on PUP to start the season, meaning the Cowboys can retain their rights while they must miss a minimum of six games.
- Ramping Up: As the season opener draws closer, Dak Prescott's practice workload continues to ramp up. For the first time since suffering the low-grade, right shoulder muscle strain, Dak participated in three 11-on-11 team sessions, displaying a strong arm throwing and completing what might have been his deepest pass attempt since that July 28 date, a 30-yarder to tight end Dalton Schultz. All a good sign, and why Jones said this week he'd "have no compunction about (Dak) going out there and playing Tampa," also adding, "I wouldn't be nervous this morning as to where he is in his recovery. He's there." Truth be known, he's been there.
- Digging It Out: Diggs took time out for an interview after Tuesday's practice, and when asked his thoughts about having to play the opener against Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady and if there is any growing anxiety, with no qualms, he said, "It's an honor to be able to compete against one of the greatest of all time." Good answer. No time to be starstruck.
- Grounded: Former Cowboys receiver Cole Beasley, an outspoken opponent of the COVID-19 vaccination, is in the midst of being grounded for five days because the unvaccinated Buffalo wide receiver had close contact with someone testing positive. No big deal now, but what if this tracing was, say, on a Thursday of the regular season and he had to miss a game?
- Masking Out: Saw this note the other day, Legends Diner in nearby Denton had posted this sign on the front door: "Our new surcharge: $50 if I have to explain why masks are mandatory. $75 if I have to hear why you disagree." Finally fed up with the controversy, the owner closed down the place.
- Rush To Judgment: Cowboys quarterback Cooper Rush gets the starting call Sunday against the Jags, and his performance likely will go a long way toward making the backup quarterback decision heading into the season opener. Duplicating Saturday's performance against Houston likely will win him the job over Garrett Gilbert. Not being consistent likely gives the job to Gilbert. Or the Cowboys keep their eye on the waiver wire next Tuesday if a more experienced candidate comes free.
- Hot Shots: No pun intended, but when walking off the practice field at The Star on Wednesday, the temperature read 95 degrees, with a feel-like registering at 108, bringing back memories of those 110-degree temps during camp in Wichita Falls from 1998-2001. No wonder the annual bike race is called "The Hotter 'N' Hell 100," which by the way takes place this weekend if you are interested … See where the Saints have signed former Cowboys safety Jeff Heath, who last year played with the Raiders … Down to four safeties in Wednesday's practice with presumptive starters Kazee and Wilson out, the Cowboys went with Jayron Kearse and Darian Thompson on the first team, followed by rookies Tyler Coyle and Mukuamu next … Second-round pick Kelvin Joseph replaced the ill Diggs at right cornerback on the first defense … According to Dr. Zeke, Dak "looks really good, throwing the ball with some hop" … And from Mike McCarthy on this latest COVID-related distraction, he didn't know how right he was on Monday when he said, "We want to make sure we contain this outbreak." No kidding.
And this week's last word goes to defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, still only going through drills and conditioning on the side, yet to jump into any contact and certainly will not play Sunday against Jacksonville after offseason cleanup back surgery.
"I'm at the point of my career where I'm trying to win a Super Bowl and if that means me going out and playing in the preseason so be it, but I think the team doesn't think that's necessary, so they tell me to be ready for Week 1.
"And I'll be ready."
From what we see, he'll be a man of his word.