OXNARD, Calif. — The Dallas Cowboys arrived in California Tuesday for training camp with a series of lingering questions: would their defense be able to improve in 2021? Will Dak Prescott be his healthy self? How sharp will Ezekiel Elliott look? And beyond.
But one question, spurred on by recent comments from Hall of Famer Michael Irvin, was also top of mind: how many Cowboys are vaccinated?
Irvin expressed his disappointment in the Cowboys for not yet reaching the 85% vaccination threshold that would allow for eased COVID-19 restrictions during training camp.
"It should upset them," Irvin said to ESPN. "It should upset them. Dude, you're not thinking right. You're not thinking right. Whatever you got, I don't give a damn. ... Nothing else can be more important."
So, at Wednesday morning's State of the Team press conference with owner Jerry Jones, vice president Stephen Jones, and head coach Mike McCarthy, the first 20 minutes centered on vaccinations.
"We have - out of our 90 players here - we have a handful that, in my mind, have still yet to commit to this," Jerry Jones said. "And handful is five. And that's iffy, in that several, in my mind that, of that figure of five, are on their way to potentially having their vaccine."
Jones said the Cowboys have players that are "in the pipeline" to getting the vaccine, but are at various stages in the process. Stephen Jones noted during the press conference that vaccination takes time, with wait periods between shots and other factors.
"I do think we'll hit that threshold," Stephen Jones said of the 85% vaccination requirement that has been discussed as a possible league stipulation. "I don't know that the 85% has been totally negotiated, yet, so, I think it's a work-in-progress. But yes, I do think that we'll hit that threshold, and more."
Vaccinations have been the topic of the offseason around the NFL, with players such as former Cowboy Cole Beasley speaking out against vaccination requirements. At a minimum, hesitancy among players and coaches was prevalent.
"I was not particularly 100% on board with the vaccination," coach McCarthy said. "But through the relationships that we're fortunate to have in the medical community, you watched, you listened, and I think that same approach was given to the players. You know, we just wanted to make sure that they have all the facts. It's important to state the relationships that we have with the medical community, and to be able to watch the science, the numbers, and so forth. And then, I made a conscious decision to get the vaccination."
According to an ESPN report, 13 of the league's 32 teams have reached that 85% threshold.
"It's a unique time," McCarthy said. "None of us have ever experienced this before, and I don't think it's a negative to take a step back, and listen and learn, and make the right decision, and I think everybody has responded."
The Cowboys first interaction with another team will come at the Hall of Fame Game, on Aug. 5 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"We can't give names," Jones said, referring to who is and is not vaccinated. "I'm totally satisfied that by the time that the Hall of Fame game, [fifteen] days from now, we'll be able to play anybody in the Hall of Fame game that we want to play.
"My opinion is that it will absolutely not limit us - the issue of vaccination - will limit us in any way, in terms of being competitive as early as when we play Pittsburgh in the first preseason game," he assured.