The Dallas Cowboys are reportedly among the NFL teams that have not yet reached the league's 85% COVID vaccination threshold for easing training-camp restrictions with camp set to begin Thursday in Oxnard, California.
That has angered Cowboys legend Michael Irvin — for football reasons. He believes that every little edge a team can gain, the greater their chances of winning a Super Bowl.
"If you're not one of them teams [above the threshold], are you really thinking about winning a championship? You see what I'm saying," Irvin said, via ESPN.com. "OK, so now if you're not getting vaccinated and you got all these other teams that are getting vaccinated ..."
Irvin believes the responsibility now lies in the players' laps and that they should be encouraging teammates to receive one of the available vaccines to combat COVID-19.
"Somebody in that damn locker room [should say], 'Hey man, we're going to have a chance, are you vaccinated?'" Irvin said. "Let's go through this because this could be a two-week healthy dude missing games, and in this league, this ain't the NBA. In this league, that could be it for you. The right person misses two weeks, that's it. Your ass is out."
Unvaccinated players subject to masks, other restrictions
The Cowboys are hardly the only team not to hit the benchmark yet. According to the ESPN report, 13 of the league's 32 teams are at the 85% vaccination mark.
However, that number went from seven teams to 13 over the course of last week, so it's highly possible that more clubs could reach that mark soon.
Back in June, the NFL and NFLPA agreed to ease restrictions dramatically for vaccinated players. That includes eliminating daily testing, eliminating mask wearing at the team's facilities, no travel restrictions and other concessions.
For players who report to camp without a vaccination, they'll be subjected to mandatory daily testing, full-time masking and physical distancing, travel limitations, weight-room and steam-room limitations and other preventative measures — including not being able to eat meals with teammates and staff members.
It's easy to see how this could make daily logistics for players more difficult.
The 2020 NFL season was plagued by COVID interruptions and limitations, and Irvin believes this year's vaccination guidelines could help a team such as the Cowboys.
In Mike McCarthy's mostly miserable first season as coach, the team went 6-10 as Dak Prescott suffered a major injury, the defense struggled badly, and Dallas didn't receive big enough contributions from its highest-paid players.
"It should upset [Cowboys players]," Irvin said. "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. You're not going to get this [winning a Super Bowl] easily. Nothing else could be more important. ... Jimmy [Johnson] made that abundantly clear [during Irvin's playing career]. Nothing else is more important. And not being one of the [teams] says there's other things to a great number of people on this team that are more important than winning championships, and that makes me worried."
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