A COVID-19 outbreak has turned the Dallas Cowboys preparation for its upcoming game upside down.
Right tackle Terence Steele, strength and conditioning coordinator Harold Nash, offensive line assistant Jeff Blasko and offensive assistant Scott Tolzien have all been added to the COVID-19 list. Those three join offensive line coach Joe Philbin, who was added to the list ahead of the Thanksgiving Day game against Las Vegas. None of the five will travel to New Orleans for Thursday’s game.
This swells the number of players and coaches placed into the protocol to 11 over the last 10 days.
“COVID is always something we have to think about this year,’’ running back Ezekiel Elliott said. “We’re having a little outbreak right now, so I mean, guys just have to make sure we’re taking that extra precaution, make sure we’re keeping ourselves, our families and our teammates safe.’’
After learning of the latest positive tests and consulting with officials at the league level, the Cowboys dramatically altered their schedule.
The players conducted a walk-thru late Sunday afternoon at The Star in Frisco. They will practice on Monday.
Everything else over those two days is virtual.
Every player and coach is required to be tested daily at least through Tuesday. Those who showed up for their tests Sunday morning were provided a box breakfast and sent home to conduct meetings virtually.
“This is the best plan for us to move forward,’’ head coach Mike McCarthy told reporters in a virtual conference call. “We will be in a virtual format today and be in a virtual format tomorrow. Tuesday is undecided at this point.
“We’re paying close attention to it.’’
Tight end coach Lunda Wells has been spending time with the offensive line while Philbin and Blasko are out. Guard Zack Martin said Wells has done a nice job of keeping the group on track.
McCarthy will also shift additional time there in the days leading up to the game with the Saints.
“Definitely, I’ll be where I need to be this week,’’ McCarthy said. “We have some moving parts.’’
Before the season began, McCarthy said all of the coaches on his staff had been vaccinated. That means every coach who shows up on the list is a breakthrough case.
“Obviously, it’s more challenging,’’ rookie Micah Parsons said of Sunday’s virtual format. “You’ve got to key on being more focused than you would in person.
“It’s challenging for everybody. But, you’ve got to get the job done.’’
Amari Cooper returns: Receiver Amari Cooper should come off the COVID-19 list Monday and is expected to practice.
How much he does remains to be seen.
Cooper, one of the few players on the team sources confirm wasn’t vaccinated, was placed on the list the day before the team left for Kansas City to face the Chiefs. He missed that game and the Thanksgiving game against the Las Vegas Raiders.
The Cowboys lost both games.
McCarthy said he’s unaware of the severity of Cooper’s case or what he did while he was away from the team for 10 days.
“I don’t have the details of it,’’ McCarthy said. “I talked to [trainer] Jim Maurer this morning about Amari particularly and he just felt the conditioning was going to be something that we’re going to have to get a hold of for any player coming off of a 10-day stretch.
“We’ll know more [Monday] after we have a chance to work with him.’’
Briefly: Receiver CeeDee Lamb, who suffered a concussion on the final play of the first half of the team’s loss to Kansas City and missed the following game against Las Vegas, was at the facility for Sunday’s walkthrough. He’s been cleared and is expected to play against New Orleans.
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