OXNARD, Calif. — The Cowboys won’t reach the unofficial 85% threshold for player vaccinations before the first practice of training camp begins Thursday, but that should change before the season begins, they said Wednesday.
Owner Jerry Jones, executive vice president Stephen Jones and coach Mike McCarthy largely spent the first 12 minutes of a news conference discussing their players’ vaccination rate. Jerry Jones was optimistic, saying that only about five of the club’s 89 players aren’t in the “pipeline” to be vaccinated.
Jones defined the pipeline as players who have committed to receive a COVID-19 vaccine or have begun the steps toward full vaccination.
As of Monday, the Cowboys expected to reach a 70% vaccination rate once players who already received at least one shot became fully vaccinated, a source told The Dallas Morning News.
“Out of the  players here, we have a handful in my mind that are still to commit to this,” Jerry Jones said. “A handful — a hand is five. … There’s not one thing about this issue of vaccine as it pertains to COVID that in any way, relative to the other 31 teams in the NFL, will put us at a competitive disadvantage.”
This year, MLB, NBA and NHL were among the sports leagues to reward any team with at least 85% of its roster fully vaccinated. Various restrictions were loosened, such as mask requirements, restaurant dining and where certain players could congregate.
Right now, an 85% threshold doesn’t exist in the NFL, league spokesperson Brian McCarthy said in an email Wednesday. Any agreement on a threshold and what it would entail must be negotiated between the league and NFL Players Association.
If the NFL adopts a threshold and the Cowboys reach it, life won’t change demonstrably for an unvaccinated Cowboys player. He’d still be required to undergo strict daily testing — this includes during the bye week — each morning, wear a mask at the facility and “be subject to other protocols from last year,” Brian McCarthy said.
Stephen Jones praised players for informing themselves about the vaccine, which has significantly reduced COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths. The ongoing Delta variant outbreak has led to a surge in the United States that disproportionally impacts the unvaccinated.
“My hat’s off to them,” Stephen Jones said of players. “They understand that everybody was recommending the vaccine, in and around the country, but they really did their homework. They had a lot of great questions. We provided them with a lot of education, a lot about the science, and I think they were able to get their hands around it. …
“I don’t know that the 85% [threshold] has been totally negotiated yet. I think it’s a work in progress, but yes, I do think we’ll hit that threshold and more.”
Coach Mike McCarthy had initial reservations about the vaccine.
Then he spoke with his personal physician and others in the medical community through his connections with the Cowboys.
“I wasn’t the first one to jump,” McCarthy said. “But once I felt that this was clearly the right thing to do, that’s why I went forward and got the vaccination myself personally. I think some people have gone about it the same way.”