One of the biggest topics in the NFL heading into training camp, and justifiably so, is vaccination against COVID-19. The raging pandemic nearly derailed the 2020 season before it ever got underway and again at several points throughout, and both the league and NFL Players Association would like to see teams achieve a rate of at least 85 percent vaccination before this year’s festivities kick off. The Dallas Cowboys have been recently named as one team currently below the threshold, but owner Jerry Jones isn’t concerned one bit.
Speaking from the opening press conference from training camp in Oxnard, California, Jones gave an exact number of how many players are and are not either vaccinated or on their way to being it.
“From the standpoint of the players — what I call in the pipeline [have been vaccinated or are waiting for one or waiting for the second shot, etc.] — we have just a handful of players who have yet to [do so],” said a confident Jones. “…And a handful means five.”
So there you have it. With the release of cornerback Rashard Robinson ahead of camp, the team has 89 players and only five or fewer are not in the “pipeline” of vaccination, and Jones went on to note the Cowboys would see that unvaccinated number reduce greatly — if not to zero — over the next week or so.
“We will not be limited in any way [by vaccination rate] going into a game as early as the one against the Steelers (Hall of Fame Game),” he added. “I’m totally satisfied that we’ll be able to play anybody we want to play in the Hall of Fame Game in 10 days.”
It’s a sentiment echoed loudly by team exec Stephen Jones.
“I do think we’ll hit the [85%] threshold [before the HOF Game], and more,” said the younger Jones.
The process of getting vaccinated is one that has proven to be both a mental and emotional one, as head coach Mike McCarthy candidly pointed out. He himself initially held off on getting vaccinated, but explained that on the advice of both his own personal doctor and the team’s medical staff, he decided it was the right call; and everyone on the team’s coaching staff joins him in having done so as well.
“I wasn’t 100% on board with the vaccination,” McCarthy admitted. “But to be able to watch the science and watch the numbers — I made the decision to get the vaccination. …Once I felt it was clearly the right thing to do [I did it]. … At the end of the day, we’re here to win championships and [the vaccination] is a part of it.”
That said, McCarthy can both respect and empathize with the five or fewer players on his roster who have reservations, and his own evolution toward getting vaccinated is expected to help sooth concerns they may have. It’s yet another reason the Joneses are both confident the Cowboys will be near or at 100 percent vaccination rate fairly soon, after having been a team that had less than a handful of COVID-19 cases at the height of the pandemic in 2020 — a claim not many other clubs can boast.