OXNARD, Calif. – The memo the NFL released on Thursday morning was bound to make waves – around the league, but also here.
The Cowboys are one of just a few teams already at camp, so it was logical that they'd be asked about the NFL's newest COVID-19 protocols for the upcoming season.
Notably, the league announced Thursday that if a game cannot be rescheduled during this 18-week season due to a COVID outbreak among unvaccinated players, the infected team will forfeit and be credited with a loss.
More importantly to the work force's bottom line, a cancelation would result in neither team scheduled to play in the affected game getting paid for that week.
Asked about it during his first press conference of training camp, Ezekiel Elliott's answer spoke volumes.
"Um, you said game checks?" he asked.
The implication is pretty clear, as this announcement is the strongest push for player vaccination to date. To be clear, the NFL is still not requiring its players to get vaccinated for COVID-19, but it continues to put forth policies that encourage it.
This latest news has prompted plenty of debate across the league landscape, as players from various other clubs voiced their displeasure with the news.
Elliott had the unfortunate luck to speak publicly on the same day, which left him trying to answer for an entire league with his own experience. For his part, Elliott said he supported personal decision-making.
"I think that's kind of a touchy subject. You can't really tell someone what to do with their body," he said. "I grew up in a family where we didn't get vaccines, so it's kind of hard to tell someone who, their whole life their mom and dad tell them not to get vaccines, to go get vaccinated."
All of that said, Elliott acknowledged to reporters that he has received the vaccine. That makes sense, given that team owner/general manager Jerry Jones said Wednesday that all but a handful of Cowboys players had done so. It's also worth pointing out that Elliott contracted COVID-19 last summer, though he said he didn't think the virus affected his level of play last season.
"I got the vaccine just because I wanted to put myself in the best situation to be out there for my team, week in and week out," he said.
Ultimately, Elliott reiterated that it's a personal choice. And while it may have been his decision to do so, he wasn't eager to dictate the proper course of action for any of his teammates or fellow NFL players.
"Not everyone feels that strongly or maybe other people still have their view of vaccines," he said. "You can't force someone to do something they don't want to do with their body."
For better or for worse, though, the decisions players make in the coming weeks and months will be an ongoing storyline as the NFL gears up for the 2021 season.