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COVID-19 absences felt in Cowboys’ 3-point overtime loss to Raiders

By Dwain Price
NDG Sports

For those folks out there who still don’t believe the coronavirus pandemic is real, try telling that piece of information to the Dallas Cowboys.

Within a span of approximately two weeks, the Cowboys have had five players and six assistant coaches come down with COVID-19. The latest to join that dreaded list is head coach Mike McCarthy, who on Monday became the12th member of the Cowboys to test positive for the coronavirus in recent weeks.

The positive test by McCarthy will force him to miss Thursday’s game in New Orleans between the Cowboys (7-4) and Saints (5-6).


Dallas Cowboys Head Coach Mike McCarthy will miss the next game with the results of a positive COVID test. (Image screenshot from Dallas Cowboys press conference recap video)

Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn will serve as the Cowboys’ interim head coach in McCarthy’s absence. However, McCarthy will direct all meetings and game preparations for the remainder of the week leading right up to Thursday’s 7:20 p.m. kickoff.

“At the end of the day we’re going to have 48 guys with that star on their helmet and it’ll be their responsibility with all the support in the world to go out there and win that game Thursday night,” McCarthy said.“That’s the approach. That won’t change.

“I’ll make sure of it and I know the leadership of our staff and the players in the locker room will make sure of that.”

Quinn was primarily chosen as the interim head coach because of his head coaching experience, although offensive coordinator Kellen Moore and special teams coordinator John Fassel will also have a significant input on the play-calling against the Saints. Quinn coached the Atlanta Falcons from 2015 until he was fired in the middle of last season, and he also led the Falcons to a berth in Super Bowl LI.

“I think understandably with Dan’s experience, the challenge flag, the timeouts, the referee’s meeting, there’s just a lot of little things that go into it,” McCarthy said. “You could have someone do it on a weekly basis, but we’ll spread that around. Kellen just needs to focus on the offense and calling the game and staying with that.

“John is also involved in some game management like most special teams’ coaches are. We have the network up top, so that’s something that won’t change. So the biggest change is having Dan down on the field and just make sure he’s getting the information he needs to make sound decisions.”

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McCarthy’s absence comes at a critical period for the Cowboys, who have lost three of their last four games, including their past two. But they know, COVID-19 or not, the show must go on as they try to put the 36-33 overtime loss to the Las Vegas Raiders on Thanksgiving Day in their rearview mirror.

“When adversity hits, whether it’s losing players or losing a coach or coming off of a couple of losses, we’re going to be able to push forward,” quarterback Dak Prescott said. “So, we’ve just got to trust our training and trust everything that we’ve been in, and as I said, our brotherhood. And just continue to lock arms.

“We know we’re going in a hostile environment and it’s going to require us to be our best.”
Besides McCarthy, right tackle Terence Steele will also sit out the game against the Saints with the coronavirus. In addition, wide receiver Amari Cooper has missed the last two games while in the COVID-19protocol, and kicker Greg Zuerlein, defensive end Randy Gregory and offensive tackle Zack Martin have all missed at least one game due to the coronavirus.

Also because of COVID-19, the Cowboys won’t have offensive line coach Joe Philbin, assistant offensive line coach Jeff Blasko, strength and conditioning coordinator Harold Nash and assistant strength and conditioning coach Kendall Smith in the game against the Saints.

In other news, the NFL has suspended Cowboys defensive tackle Trysten Hill for two games for punching a member of the Raiders following last Thursday’s game.

Meanwhile, McCarthy is fully vaccinated and can return to his full-time coaching duties in person in less than 10 days if he test negative twice at least 24 hours apart.

“This is definitely a reality check, and COVID’s real,” McCarthy said. “It’s very real. Individual health is a priority number one for all of us. I think it’s time to keep priorities and perspective in order, and our healthy football team will be out there and they’ll be ready to go.

“This is a tough spot in history, but we’ll be better from it. The adversity of what’s in front of us, I think, we’re prepared for it. And that will be our approach.”

All of the positive COVID-19 tests have put the Cowboys at an obvious disadvantage. But it also is a tell-tale sign for others.

“COVID’s real,” Prescott said. “I didn’t need the head coach or the president (of the United States) to jump in for me to realize that. You see people constantly getting it and contracting it whether they’ve got the vaccine or not.

“Obviously, this isn’t something we can take light or we can let up on. It’s very real, but we’ve got to do our best in protecting ourselves and protecting the others around us. Obviously, washing our hands and doing whatever we can to reduce the chances for us and people around us of getting it.”

In the meantime, the Cowboys must find a way to overcome their numerous COVID-19 losses and win in one of the toughest environments in the NFL.

“Obviously, we’ll miss coach, but his health is first and foremost important,” Prescott said. “We’ll fight and get everything done that we need to.”

McCarthy said other than a scratchy throat, he feels fine. And he’s looking forward to being back with his team in person.

“This threat is very real, and please do everything you can to keep yourself and your family safe,” McCarthy said. “If it can get me, it can get anybody.

“I just think it shows you the danger of the pandemic and the virus.”

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