Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said “knock on wood” Thursday morning when discussing his players’ avoidance of COVID-19 this season.
Apparently, not loudly enough.
Safety Darian Thompson and defensive tackle Justin Hamilton both have tested positive for the coronavirus, sources said Friday. They were placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list and won’t be available for Sunday’s regular-season finale against the New York Giants.
In response, the Cowboys altered their Friday schedule, holding virtual meetings without any on-field activities. McCarthy said that all players were instructed to stay home, as coaches reported to The Star. The team plans to practice Saturday before its afternoon flight.
Sunday’s noon CT kickoff time in East Rutherford, N.J., remains as scheduled.
Thompson and Hamilton became just the third Cowboys players on the 53-man roster to contract COVID-19 during the 2020 regular season. Quarterback Andy Dalton, the other, produced no high-risk close contacts when he tested positive in early November, a benefit to Dalton being in the concussion protocol at the time. Thompson happens to be in the concussion protocol now, too; he was concussed in Sunday’s win over the Philadelphia Eagles.
Dallas had one other player case since the season began on Sept. 13. Defensive tackle Walter Palmore, on the practice squad, was diagnosed with COVID-19 in November.
According to a transaction report the NFL distributed to all 32 clubs on Friday afternoon, six players across the league were placed Friday on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, and five of those six tested positive for COVID-19. The exception, per the league document, is one player who’s considered a high-risk close contact with a virus carrier.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Shaquil Barrett was among the six players added to Reserve/COVID-19. He is considered a high-risk contact, a source said. Thompson or Hamilton thus aren’t.
That Thompson and Hamilton tested positive doesn’t necessarily detract from the Cowboys’ overall success avoiding COVID-19. McCarthy said Thursday that he was proud of the players’ success in that department.
“Definitely,” McCarthy said. “Knock on wood. I can’t say enough about our players, just the way they have gone about their jobs every day. We’re organized. They come in, I mean, the work ethic has been very consistent. The testing that goes on, our guys have done a good job with that. I think clearly having a testing for our families has been a huge factor, especially with the onslaught here with the holidays and the flu season upon us.
“So I just think just the whole combination of the commitment from the organization, players and staff commitment and diligence has definitely kept our numbers very, very low. And we clearly understand too our toughest days are probably in front of us. I think the players and everybody, staff included, should be commended on the job that we’ve done to date. Very thankful for the staff that takes care of us with the testing and so forth.”
Thompson likely wouldn’t have played Sunday due to the concussion.
Fortunately for the Cowboys, help is coming at the position.
Safety Donovan Wilson will start after missing Wednesday and Thursday’s practices with an illness. There is optimism, too, for safety Xavier Woods (ribs). His official game status was listed Friday as questionable. Presuming Woods is available, he and Wilson will start. Nickel cornerback Jourdan Lewis can serve as the third safety if needed. Rookie safety Reggie Robinson projects as a fourth option.
Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch (ankle) and cornerback Rashard Robinson (knee) have been ruled out.
Hamilton started two of the past three games, averaging 33.7 snaps in that span. Eli Ankou, acquired in late October from the Houston Texans for a 2022 seventh-round pick, could figure more prominently in the rotation.
No Cowboys players were made available to reporters Friday in light of the team’s adjusted schedule.