OXNARD, Calif. – At the outset of another training camp, the Dallas Cowboys feel like they're exactly where they should be.
With training camp returning to the familiar location of the West Coast, that phrase obviously lends itself to multiple interpretations. But in the effort to work through another season without too much interference from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the most interpretation of all might be where this team feels in regard to its vaccination efforts.
And to hear it from Cowboys officials, that feeling is a good one.
"Out of the 90 players here, we have a handful, that in my mind that are still to commit to this," said Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones.
Training Camp Opening Press Conference | 2021
To be clear, there are levels to this. Jones spoke at Wednesday's opening press conference about "the pipeline," referring to the multiple-week process of getting vaccinated. Some players have completely finalized the process, while other have received one shot but not two. Still others have received both shots but have not completed the standard two-week waiting period for the vaccine to take effect.
Naturally, the Cowboys aren't about to provide names when it comes to personal and sensitive medical issues. Even still, team officials seem abundantly confident that they'll hit the necessary thresholds as they begin their journey through the preseason and into the 2021 campaign.
"I'm totally satisfied that by the time that -- the Hall of Fame Game is, what, 10 days away relatively speaking. And so we'll be able to play anybody in the Hall of Fame game that we want to play," Jones said.
It's a startling amount of cohesion on a topic that has lacked it. As the world seeks to move past the virus that has gripped the globe for the past 16 months, there has been plenty of disagreement about the best course forward. For all the support for vaccination across the country, there has been plenty of dissent – and, above all else, a dialogue centered on personal choice.
For his part, Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said he initially had reluctance on the issue, but came to his decision through personal research – an initiative he hoped to impart to his teams.
"Frankly, I shared my own personal experience where the facts that I was not particularly 100 percent on board with the vaccination," McCarthy said. "But through the relationships that we're fortunate to have in the medical community, you watch, you listen. I think that same approach was given to our players. We just wanted to make sure they had all the facts."
This was always bound to be a topic of conversation, given the current state of affairs in regard to COVID-19. But it was directly tied to this team just last week when Cowboys legend Michael Irvin suggested that players who don't get vaccinated aren't doing everything in their power to win a championship.
Given Irvin's pedigree – five Pro Bowls and three Super Bowl championships -- it was a message Jones said he appreciated.
"We want everything to go above and beyond. And so I thought it was an outstanding message – again, just to remind us," Jones said. "I don't know if 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 the practice field. So that's influential."
Who's to say if Irvin's words had an impact, or perhaps it was the guidelines put in place by the league. According to memos released during the summer, the NFL will loosen protocols for vaccinated players – including allowing them to forego masks, daily testing and travel restrictions.
Regardless, the Cowboys seem confident that they're trending in the right direction. With the entirety of training camp still to go, that seems encouraging for the season to come.
"So that's where we are relative to the league, at some 77%, we're very satisfied with where the Dallas Cowboys are when looking at our competition," Jones said.