FRISCO, Texas – Zack Martin knew something wasn't right.
"I was eating dinner and I told my wife, 'I can't really taste this,'" he said. "I was thinking I was just really congested."
Martin said he got a phone call the next morning – Saturday, Sept. 4 – informing him of a positive COVID-19 test, his first bout with the virus. He lost his sense of taste and smell (both have since returned) and fortunately did not experience high fever.
The six-time Pro Bowl guard spent all last week on the Reserve/COVID-19 list and could not play in last Thursday's season opener against the Tampa Bay Bucs.
"It was very frustrating, especially the timing," he said. "But this is the world we live in right now and I'm definitely not going to be the last guy this year that's dealing with this. We've just got to deal with it when it comes our way."
Martin has cleared COVID protocol and returned to the active roster this week. Wednesday's practice went well, he said, and he feels fine after several days of rest at home.
"It was a long week, but I'm happy to be back," he said.
The Cowboys' offensive line will look different Sunday at the LA Chargers, and it's not just Martin's return to the starting lineup.
La'el Collins is out the next five games on NFL suspension, so the Cowboys must find a capable replacement at right tackle. Head coach Mike McCarthy said the team will work different combinations in practice this week. Terence Steele and Ty Nsekhe are the primary backup tackles on the roster.
Last year, several injuries at tackle prompted Martin to move out to right tackle for two starts. That's technically an option for the Cowboys again. But on Wednesday, McCarthy explained why having Martin at right guard is "a huge benefit to us."
"Just because the caliber of player that he is as far as his ability to win a matchup, but also what he brings inside with the recognition and so forth," McCarthy said. "The guards and centers are definitely trained the same."
Said Martin: "I think that was different circumstances last year. I play right guard, and that's what I'm going to do."