FRISCO, Texas -- On Tuesday, a portion of the Dallas Cowboys' team will fly to California for the start of training camp. On Wednesday, owner and general manager Jerry Jones, executive vice president Stephen Jones and coach Mike McCarthy will hold a state of the team news conference. On Thursday, the players will be on the practice field in Oxnard, California.
The wait for the 2021 NFL season is about to end.
"Pumped up," Stephen Jones said.
During their organized team activities and minicamp this offseason, the Cowboys saw quarterback Dak Prescott look like he had no ill effects from the compound fracture and dislocation of his right ankle that he suffered in the fifth game of the 2020 season. While offensive linemen Tyron Smith, Zack Martin and La'el Collins did not play a game together in 2020 and were not involved in competitive parts of spring practices, Jones said they will be ready to go.
There are some questions about how much wide receiver Amari Cooper (ankle), defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence (back) and defensive tackle Trysten Hill (knee) will do early on during training camp, but Stephen Jones does not expect extended absences for any of them or any other players who are coming off injury.
"We are going to be careful," Stephen Jones said. "We are going to ease into it with any one of them. If anybody who might need a little bit [of time], we are not going to rush into it because it's a journey. We feel everybody will be ready to roll."
The Cowboys have missed the playoffs the past two seasons, finishing a disappointing 6-10 in McCarthy's first season, but interest remains high, with Prescott's return among the biggest storylines of the NFL season.
His return will face even more scrutiny with the Cowboys being featured on HBO's "Hard Knocks."
Dallas is the first team to appear on the series for a third time, and Stephen Jones confirmed the Cowboys did not ask to be selected.
"Jerry was at the league meetings and we kind of got informed we were doing it," Stephen Jones said. "It wasn't really a lot of asking. It is great for the league."
It might not be the best of circumstances for the Cowboys to have so much attention put on them, but the organization is taking a bigger-picture view on the impact of selling the brand after a year in which fans were limited or not allowed to attend games because of the coronavirus pandemic.
"All these things leading up to the season are huge, whether it's minicamps and OTAs, whether it's training camp, whether it's 'Hard Knocks,' whether it's preseason games, all the things that go with this, I think is a big part of our game," Stephen Jones said. "It's a natural buildup to get our fans fired up about going to our football games. Obviously our world has been through a lot with the pandemic. You can't just assume you're going to flip the switch and everything is going to be fine.
"We feel a lot of buildup, including 'Hard Knocks,' is a good thing to get people fired up about reconnecting and rolling."
The Cowboys first appeared on "Hard Knocks," in 2002 and finished 5-11 that season. Their second appearance came in 2008 and they missed the postseason with a 9-7 record with an uber-talented team that was done in partly because of locker room turmoil.
"At the end of the day, you got to go to work. You got to go execute. You have to have everything come together, have your leadership, have your culture right and go win football games," Stephen Jones said. "A little bit of that comes with the Cowboys. You are always going to be in the limelight when you are with this organization. That is part of it. At the end of the day, we believe -- although obviously it hasn't played out for us in quite some time right now -- it will be really good for us.
"It can add a hardness and have us ready. I have a lot of confidence in this team with Dak leading it. He's special. ... You put him in place and get this offensive line group healthy. Heck, our whole group is ready to make a statement and take the next step."