Cowboys' Mike McCarthy adapts to new learning curve during coronavirus pandemic

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For most of the offseason, Mike McCarthy has been closer to Lambeau Field and the Green Bay Packers than his new team, the Dallas Cowboys, because of the coronavirus pandemic.

After being named Cowboys coach in January, McCarthy spent most of his time leading up to the pandemic in Frisco, Texas, where The Star, the team's training facility, is located. He then spent all of the draft process in Wisconsin and conducted the team's virtual offseason program from there.

"I don't think any of us envisioned what's going on in our society," McCarthy said in a conference call Wednesday. "I think it just puts things in perspective. I have been with my family the whole time [since] maybe the first 10 days of the pandemic. I am anxiously preparing, frankly, to get back to Frisco as soon as possible. It's time, I know, for me to get back."

McCarthy has yet to have an in-person team meeting, and when he addressed the full team via Webex, he did not have the capability to see all 90 faces looking at him. He acknowledged feeling a little behind in the process because it is his first year with a mostly new coaching staff (only four holdover assistants from Jason Garrett's staff), a new defense and a partially reworked offense.

"You really don't have a true comparable, but I think it's obvious to think if we started April 6, like we normally would as a first-year program, we would be in a different spot than we are here today," McCarthy said. "I am pleased with the amount of work that we have been able to accomplish. I think our coaches have been very creative. I think the communication and correspondence with players have been excellent. The questions have been intuitive. I think it leans toward the veteran experience of our football team that we're able to get this much work done."

Cowboys staff met with players first by position group before adding full offensive and defensive team meetings this week to help the learning process. He felt it would be better for the players to learn their specific job requirements in smaller groups to start and then get a bigger-picture schematic view.

"We just kind of flipped some things and the order of how we would normally do them," McCarthy said. "It was more done with a focus on productivity, not just the detail but also get the volume of what we want to get done. Because our volume is obviously higher than a normal year because it's our first year. That's why we went with that approach."

McCarthy said the coaches have put together a training camp plan if the Cowboys can go to Oxnard, California, or if they will remain in Frisco.

"We're just trying to be ready for when the NFL and those big decisions are made that we're not running around trying to adhere to a different schedule," McCarthy said. "So we've spent a ton of time in our preparation of getting ready for that moment when we do get to be with the players."

As for Dak Prescott, who has yet to sign the $31.4 million exclusive franchise tag in hopes of landing a multiyear contract by July 15, McCarthy said there has been communication with the quarterback even if Prescott has not taken part in the voluntary meetings.

"This is the way these business situations go sometimes, and you respect that," McCarthy said. "I have all the confidence it'll work out."

Having spent last season out of coaching after a 13-year run with the Packers, McCarthy gained a different perspective. Now that he's been back for nearly five months, the pandemic has offered another perspective.

"I think we've all been taught a whole different level of patience," McCarthy said. "I think keeping things in perspective, thinking of the health of your community and your family, a lot of other things are secondary. I'm anxious to get back, frankly. My family's probably anxious for me to get back. They're not used to having me around as much.

"It's definitely something I've prepared for, but frankly, it's self-explanatory -- you used to be able to have 60 days to get the job done, and everybody in our league will probably have more like 30 days, so I'm really focusing on maximizing the time and the meeting time and the most important things we need to get done when we get back together. Having the unknown out there causes more work on the preparation side."