As NFL teams report to training camps within the next week, COVID-19 protocols will play an essential role in how clubs can operate. Those teams that have reached the vaccination threshold will stand out during camps.
With the Dallas Cowboys one of the first teams to open camp — along with Hall of Fame Game opponent Pittsburgh — owner Jerry Jones addressed the club’s vaccination status, saying Wednesday he’s very comfortable with his player’s vaccination rate at this point. Jones noted that out of 90 players at camp, five are not currently on a path to full vaccination.
“We have as many challenges to come to a camp as I’ve ever experienced in any time that I’ve been with the Cowboys,” Jones said Wednesday. “We are under protocol. We know how to operate under protocol — we had a lot of practice last year — we’re under protocol.
“Let me say this regarding our team and its vaccines. Everybody here, including you, everybody here in what we call Tier 1, 2 or 3, is vaccinated for the most part, if you’ll give me 99 percent as for the most part, from that standpoint. There could be one or two that aren’t. From the standpoint of the players, we have what I call ‘in the pipeline’ — that’s committed but at some various stage of whether they need two vaccine shots and they have one or whether they’re waiting a period of time so that they can have their vaccine and go through the protocol. We have, out of our 90 players here, we have a handful that, in my mind, have still to commit to this. A handful — and a hand is five. Several, in my mind, in that finger of five, are on their way to potentially having their vaccine. So, that’s where we are relative to the league at some 77 percent. We’re very satisfied at where the Dallas Cowboys are as far as looking at our competition in the next few weeks ahead.
“More importantly, I want to refer to last year. It was no accident that the Cowboys had about 22, 23, 24 percent of all the fans in the NFL were at Cowboys games. Just so you know. That was important to us. By the way, there were no, none, serious, in any way, outbreaks of COVID.”
With the Cowboys set to take on the Steelers on Thursday, Aug. 5, Jones said he’s comfortable with where his team is in the process regarding the COVID-19 vaccinations.
“I think, and I don’t want to mince — you do know we have some, can’t give names, let’s just put it like that — there’s nothing we can do,” he said. “I’m totally satisfied that by the time the HOF game… we’ll be able to play anybody in the HOF game that we want to play. I’ll answer it that way. Absent of something happening between now and the HOF game. What I’m comparing this to is when people say, ‘Where do you think you stand right now with the vaccination issue relative to your team and as it pertains to — this comes to mind — the competition?’ I think we’re one of the leaders.”
Speaking from Oxnard, Calif., where the Cowboys have held their training camp for years, Jones said that his team continues to follow protocols mandated by the state and NFL. The owner doesn’t believe the process will hinder the club’s preparation.
“We had a lot of practice last year on how to do what needs to be done,” he said. “We don’t have any issues with our coaches (being vaccinated). So, the protocol that we used last year is pretty much what you’ll be looking at. Doable isn’t the word for it. It is very practical as to how we incorporate the idea of having a handful of people that are not qualified relative to the vaccine. There will be isolation, there will be daily testing, there’ll be limits to outside camp activities — all of those things were what we had last year, and we’re ready to operate on that basis. That will adhere to every California issue, as far as their demands. We will certainly adhere to the NFL as far as making that operate. … My opinion is that it absolutely will not limit us in any way — the issue of vaccination — will (not) limit us in any way as to being competitive as early as when we play Pittsburgh in the first preseason game.”
Jones’ comments come after Cowboys legend and Hall of Famer Michael Irvin recently admonished any Dallas players who hadn’t gotten vaccinated, saying that they didn’t want to win bad enough to do everything possible to ensure a smooth season.
“Well, Michael Irvin is the best example that I know of how much will and how much body language and how much heart and sacrifice mean to winning championships,” Jones said when asked about Irvin’s comments. “He is that. So, when he talks, I listen — I know that. And I think he has a good reputation with the current group of players because of his visibility, his activity with the network, and where he is as an individual. So, he comes with all the credibility in the world. He’s a Hall of Famer not only part because he’s a talented football player, but a big part of why he got there was that internal commitment — going above and beyond — and that’s what he was trying to say. That it isn’t normal things we want from each other as players. We want everything going above and beyond. I thought it was an outstanding message. Again, just to remind us, I don’t know that I’ve ever talked to a member of those teams that won those three Super Bowls that thought we could’ve done it without Michael Irvin and what he brought to the locker room and to the practice field. So, that was influential.”
With Jones saying most Cowboys players are at least on the way to being fully vaccinated, perhaps that influential message was heeded within the Dallas locker room.
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