FRISCO, Texas -- As the country experiences a surge in COVID-19 cases, the Dallas Cowboys are going above the NFL's intensive protocols by having staff members who are in direct contact with the players go into a bubble similar to the one the team employed during training camp.
Speaking on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas, owner and general manager Jerry Jones said, "Everybody's emphasizing, 'Don't let your guard down.'" The team is stepping up its isolation by having coaches and staff stay at the Omni Hotel at The Star, according to multiple sources.
"We're going in a more intense way, and we're having our coaches restrict their activities away from the field and restrict their contacts away from the field," Jones told the team's flagship network. "We're having all staff that touch a player do that. That's in addition to what the NFL is doing."
The Cowboys moved into intensive protocols last week during their bye week after a Pittsburgh Steelers player tested positive after their game against Dallas. The Cowboys did not have an in-person practice last week but held a virtual meeting.
They returned to The Star on Monday for meetings and a walk-through and will continue for the week, according to coach Mike McCarthy. Because of the size of The Star with the 12,000-seat Ford Center, the Cowboys have the room to spread out meetings to remain socially distanced.
In training camp, players stayed at the Omni, creating their own version of a bubble. Due to the collective bargaining agreement, teams can't mandate that players stay at a hotel during the regular season. Jones said he was not sure if the league would move to a bubble format for the playoffs, similar to the NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball.
"Don't let your guard down because tomorrow all of that could change," Jones said. "And that's a fact. Don't let me think for one second we've got the key to how to not have this COVID outbreak. We don't. But the things we're doing are working here."
Jones said he assumes anybody he comes in contact with has the coronavirus, and he wears two masks. He also said he would take the vaccine when it becomes available.
Yet Jones is not at the point where he will cut back attendance at AT&T Stadium. In five games, the Cowboys have had 128,750 fans, averaging 25,750 per game as the team follows guidelines set forth by the state, the NFL and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Jones said his plan was to increase fans as the season went on. The Cowboys had 31,700 attend the Pittsburgh game.
"I'm very proud of the fact that we do it safely, we do it smartly," Jones said. "Our fans are really helpful, to say the very least, in playing in front of those fans. I see a continued aggressive approach to having fans out there. We'll see. That's not being insensitive to the fact that we've got our COVID and an outbreak. Some say maybe it is, but not when we're doing it as safe as we are, and not when you're having the results we are. Literally, we have had no one report that they've had any contact with COVID from coming to our game. No one."