McCarthy will become the third NFL head coach to miss a game this season under the protocols, following the Arizona Cardinals’ Kliff Kingsbury and the Chicago Bears’ Matt Nagy.
Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, the former head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, will serve as the Cowboys’ interim head coach against the Saints.
“I feel good,” McCarthy said. “I’ve just got a little bit of a scratchy throat. I thought it was just really a carry-over from the [Thanksgiving] game. I guess it hasn’t hit me yet, talking to some of the other guys that have had it.”
McCarthy said he was informed Monday morning of his positive test result and told his players about it during a virtual team meeting.
“I waited until the end just to tell them that obviously I’d tested positive and just really stressed again — no different than I normally do, but just stressed it from a personal perspective that this is real,” McCarthy said. “This threat is very real and please do everything you can to keep yourself and your family safe.”
McCarthy said that some of his family members also have the virus. He’d attempted to avoid that, he said, by moving to the team hotel Friday after other members of the Cowboys’ coaching staff had tested positive.
“I said, ‘Hey, if it can get me, it can get anybody,’” McCarthy said. “I’d like to think that I was super cautious and careful. But I just think it shows you the danger of the pandemic and the virus.”
All coaches and team staffers must be vaccinated to maintain their eligibility to work closely with players, under the protocols developed jointly by the league and the NFL Players Association. Coaches can miss time, under the protocols, only for a positive test for the virus, given that contact-tracing quarantines do not apply to vaccinated individuals.
Under the protocols, a vaccinated individual can rejoin team activities by remaining symptom-free and having two negative test results 24 hours apart. But with the Cowboys needing to travel to New Orleans to play a Thursday game, there is not sufficient time for McCarthy to clear the protocols after his positive test result was returned Monday.
The Cowboys said in a written statement earlier Monday that McCarthy “has been entered into the NFL’s Covid protocols this morning” and “will not be on the field for the Saints game.” The team said that McCarthy “will continue to direct, and be … involved in, all meetings and game preparations on a virtual basis for the remainder of the week, including Thursday’s meetings in New Orleans.”
The Cowboys conducted all their team meetings remotely Monday but also held their regularly scheduled afternoon practice. McCarthy said that Tuesday’s team meetings also will be held remotely.
Dallas has eight coaches and players, including McCarthy and offensive tackle Terence Steele, in the protocols. Wide receiver Amari Cooper rejoined the team Monday but did not practice after missing two games because of reportedly testing positive for the virus. Cooper reportedly is unvaccinated, meaning that he was subject to a 10-day isolation period under the protocols without the possibility of testing out of isolation sooner than that with two negative tests.
The team is playing its second straight Thursday game this week. The Cowboys lost on Thanksgiving to the Las Vegas Raiders, 36-33, in overtime in Arlington, Tex.
The NFL has been braced for post-Thanksgiving issues with the coronavirus. The league previously tightened protocols, citing a recent increase in positive tests leaguewide and the prospect of players, coaches and staffers being involved in holiday gatherings.
All team personnel will be tested twice this week for the virus, Monday and Wednesday, regardless of vaccination status. Vaccinated individuals usually would be subject only to once-per-week testing, while unvaccinated players are tested daily. There also are heightened mask-wearing requirements in effect within team facilities in the coming days.
In addition to McCarthy’s positive test, Pittsburgh Steelers pass rusher T.J. Watt, Minnesota Vikings cornerback Patrick Peterson and Tennessee Titans safety Kevin Byard were among the players leaguewide placed on their teams’ covid-19 reserve lists Monday.
“I just think this is the world we live in right now,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy said he did not believe that he’d previously missed a practice or a game as an NFL coach.
“Health is the most important thing,” McCarthy said. “And covid’s real. It’s very real. So I’m in tune with that.”