The Cowboys have announced that they will be without a key player to begin the 2021 season, with the season opener just days away.
All-Pro lineman Zack Martin tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday, and will not play against the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday night, according to head coach Mike McCarthy. Martin was quickly moved to the reserve/COVID-19 list by the team.
Connor McGovern, a third-year prospect who stepped in for Martin last season while he was out with a concussion and calf ailment, is anticipated to start in Martin’s place.
After being declared a close contact, backup G Brandon Knight was added to the COVID list, joining Martin and receiver Noah Brown. Following the revised designations, the organization added punter Bryan Anger to the active roster.
Teams will have to be ready at all times in the event that a player is suddenly taken from the lineup due to a COVID list designation, as was the situation during the 2020 season. The news on Sunday served as a strong reminder to McCarthy and his colleagues of that possibility.
With Dallas losing one of its finest blockers, the already difficult chore of restraining the Bucs’ defensive line has suddenly become even more difficult. For a promising Cowboys’ offensive line that has struggled in recent seasons, this latest setback, even if it’s only temporary, couldn’t have come at a worse time.
Not to mention, with Dak Prescott returning from a catastrophic ankle injury and Ezekiel Elliott seeking to rebound, the unit’s collective health is possibly more vital than ever.
With Martin out, veteran Tyron Smith and La’el Collins, who missed the entire previous season due to a neck injury and has recently dealt with neck stingers that have limited his ability to practice, will be heavily relied upon to offer consistency. Smith appeared in two games before undergoing neck surgery and missing the rest of the season.
Collins and G Connor Williams, who was activated from the COVID list by Dallas, returned to practice on Sunday in the hopes of being ready for Week 1, according to McCarthy.