OXNARD, Calif. — Jerry Jones expects the Dallas Cowboys to make significant strides in pursuit of their first Super Bowl since the 1995 season.
Back on stage for nearly an hour ahead of the start of training camp, the Cowboys owner and general manager was in his element during a free-wheeling press conference Wednesday where much of his optimism centered on progress regarding COVID-19 vaccinations.
Jones said five of the 90 players the Cowboys brought to training camp are not yet “in the pipeline” to receive some form of vaccine.
Among the majority, some are waiting to receive a second dose or have yet to clear the 14-day threshold to be regarded as fully vaccinated, Cowboys CEO Stephen Jones said.
“There’s not one thing that this issue of vaccine as it pertains to the COVID that in any way, relative to the other 31 teams in the NFL, will put us at a competitive disadvantage,” said Jerry Jones, whose team will play Pittsburgh in the Hall of Fame game on Aug. 5.
The team’s vaccination status came into the spotlight after former Cowboys wide receiver Michael Irvin said the failure to have at least 85 percent of players vaccinated meant they were not committed to winning. NFL teams are allowed to operate with relaxed COVID protocols after reaching that threshold.
Jerry Jones said he understood the competitive spirit behind Irvin’s comments and indicated the three-time Super Bowl winner and Hall of Fame inductee’s comments may have helped spur some players to get vaccinated.
“Well, Michael Irvin is the best example that I know of how much will and how much body language and how much heart and sacrifice mean to winning championships. He is that. And so when he talks, I listen. I know that,” the long-time owner said. “And I think he has a good reputation with the current group of players because of his visibility and his activity with the network and where he is as an individual, so he comes with all the credibility in the world.”
With vaccinations addressed, Jerry Jones turned his focus to on-field concerns, where the Cowboys have plenty after going 6-10 in the miserable NFC East last season.
Quarterback Dak Prescott is expected to participate fully in training camp after sustaining a compound fracture of his right ankle in Week 5, coach Mike McCarthy said. Running back Ezekiel Elliott, who has been showing off his improved physique on social media, should find more running room with improved health on the offensive line after setting career lows in rushing yards (979) and touchdowns (9).
The defense has a new coordinator in former Atlanta head coach Dan Quinn and new personnel headlined by linebacker Micah Parsons, who was drafted 12th overall. They will have to make significant headway after allowing 29.6 points per game despite finishing tied for seventh in the league in takeaways.
Despite those struggles, Jerry Jones sees parallels between the top of his current roster and those from the teams in the early 1990’s that won three titles in four years.
“When you look at our top 10-11 paid guys, they’re guys that can make major contributions to this team,” he said. “We had a core base like that in those championship years.”
The hunger Jones has for returning to the biggest stage in football was evident as the 78 year-old mused about the financial and metaphysical considerations he would commit to make it happen.
“I’m not trying to be sacrilegious here, but the facts are that I would right now, if I could, and I knew that I had a good chance to do it, I’d do anything known to man to get in a Super Bowl,” Jones said.
Jones also reflected on his contentious relationship with former coach Jimmy Johnson, who is set to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame next month after the 2020 enshrinement ceremony was called off.
Johnson was Jones’ first coaching hire as the Cowboys owner and won back-to-back Super Bowls with the Cowboys in 1992-93 before their acrimonious breakup.
Though Jerry Jones declined to say if Johnson would finally be inducted into the team’s ring of honor this year, the 2017 Hall of Fame inductee choked up when recalling the times they had in restoring the Cowboys to a championship level.
Even the return to California for training camp after scuttling those plans last year because of the pandemic had him in a reflective mood.
“But seriously, what you’re seeing is just how good it feels to be here,” Jerry Jones said. “Doggone, just as much as I enjoy this stuff, I get to thinking ‘Well, are you ever going to see that again? Are you ever going to be sitting up there talking to everybody again?’ I’m not going to apologize, but I am sensitive today and emotional about the whole show.”
NOTES: The Cowboys completed the signings of their draft class before the first practice by getting deals with two of their three third-round picks in DE Chauncey Golston and CB Nahshon Wright. … Veteran CB Rashard Robinson was released before the team traveled to California. The NFL suspended Robinson for the first two games of the regular season for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancers.
AP Sports Writer Schuyler Dixon contributed to this report.