A lingering COVID-19 issue with the Dallas Cowboys is likely to keep one of their best players out of the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay’s opening game.
Four-time All-Pro right guard Zack Martin is among the last Dallas players to test positive. When asked if he would miss Thursday’s game with seven-time champion quarterback Tom Brady, coach Mike McCarthy replied, “I would say yes.”
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Four other potential starters were in health and safety protocols at the end of the preseason but have since returned: receiver CeeDee Lamb, left guard Connor Williams, safety Damontae Kazee and defensive tackle Carlos Watkins.
Backup tackle Brandon Knight has been placed on the COVID-19 reserve list along with Martin. Receiver Noah Brown was already on it.
The outbreak began with defensive coordinator Dan Quinn before the penultimate preseason game against Houston. Quinn is also back.
Third-year pro Connor McGovern, who replaced Martin when he was sidelined with a calf injury last year, is expected to replace him again.
McCarthy said the club held virtual meetings Sunday morning before the players came to practice. They had to return to virtual meetings after training. McCarthy said they will follow the same procedure on Monday, the most important practice before the first game.
“The numbers are up in our company so I think we understand what we need to do and I think we are more used to protocols and adjustments,” McCarthy said. “We will still do our job.”
With Martin likely out, the Cowboys will once again be without one of their top three offensive linemen after the line never played together in 2020.
Martin was limited to 10 games with a calf problem, and seven-time Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith played in just two games before season-ending neck surgery. A hip problem that required surgery kept right tackle La’el Collins from being out all season.
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Lamb said he lost his sense of taste and smell for about a week, but has no concerns about his conditioning before the game against the Buccaneers.
“It’s definitely a tough situation we’re going through and fighting,” Lamb said. “It’s a bit unfortunate on our end, considering that we’re doing everything right and we don’t really understand where it’s coming from. At this point, we just have to play it safe.”