ARLINGTON, Texas – For the first 11 training camp practices, the Cowboys' practice jerseys looked, well, like practice jerseys always look: numbers on the front and back, and this year, the addition of last names on the back.
For Sunday's "Cowboys Night" practice at AT&T Stadium -- televised locally in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and on the Cowboys' media channels – the jerseys were essentially blank.
Head coach Mike McCarthy's explanation was simple: "competitive advantage and disadvantage."
"We talked about it this past week and frankly, this is such a unique season on so many fronts," he said. "I can't tell you the number of conversations you have about competitive advantage and disadvantage, and frankly with the fact that we were televising the practice here tonight, we would be exposing our younger players to an evaluation process that the other teams really are not exposing their team to. That was the reason behind going with the white and blue shirts this evening."
Indeed, the Cowboys are doing their best to evaluate the younger players on the 80-man camp roster during this compressed camp. A completely virtual offseason program due to the nation's COVID-19 crisis, preventing the coaching staff from getting any on-field looks at the rookie class (drafted or undrafted) until mid-August.
With final roster cuts due in a few days, that evaluation process is ongoing. Clearly, the Cowboys want to keep it as discreet as possible.
"I just look back to the 70s and the 80s and into the 90s with Coach (Chuck) Noll back in Pittsburgh," said McCarthy, a Pittsburgh native. They always practiced without numbers on the jerseys. I think it's an excellent tool to use with your coaching staff and your personnel staff. You've got to know your players better (than anybody else) and know the body types, know their mannerisms. It will be a good exercise for us when we watch the tape."