Aug 7, 2020
Mike McCarthy Dallas Cowboys Press Conference Transcript August 7
Mike McCarthy, the head football coach for the Dallas Cowboys, held an August 7 press conference. He talked about QB Dak Prescott, the rookie class, the team’s national anthem stance, and more. Read the full transcript here.
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Mike McCarthy: (01:28)
Good afternoon, everyone, and we’ll jump right into it. So, David, if you’re ready, you can start the questions.
Speaker 2: (01:36)
Sure, Mike. [inaudible 00:01:40] the circumstances of this off season really didn’t give you much time to work with Dak, so how much time have you been able to spend with them since everyone recorded, and how did you characterize it grasp of the offense at this stage as far as how you want to execute it and just his understanding of it? Of the page as far as how you want to execute it and get this understanding of it?
Mike McCarthy: (01:59)
Well, I’ll say this. I think Dak has done a great job with the time away, and really the whole group, the quarterback group, and with the addition of Andy Dalton, I really like the quarterback room. I think the diversity that you have there with Dak Prescott and Andy with his experience, and then we’ve got our two young guys in Clayton and Ben, but most importantly, we have three former quarterbacks coach in that group. So it feels very normal as far as we go through the installations. I think the biggest adjustment for Dak is the language, which has been an adjustment for all of us, but he’s looked very good in the throwing segments of the strength and conditioning phase that we’re in right now, and I’m very pleased where he is and very impressed.
Speaker 3: (02:52)
How would you describe his mindset considering what he went through in the off season with the contract and didn’t get the longterm deal?
Mike McCarthy: (02:59)
Well, just with us being around each other for the first time, I’ve really enjoyed his personality. He’s very upbeat, very driven, so I would say he’s picked up where he’s left off based off what I’ve been told about him as far as how he operates, but very detailed in his preparation. He’s a lot of fun to be around.
Speaker 4: (03:28)
Mike, at the risk of getting too technical, what you just said about the language, one of the things you said in January was that you were going to try to learn their language instead of having them learn a new one. How has that changed if at all?
Mike McCarthy: (03:44)
Well, I can honestly say that the individual that has had to learn the most has been myself, so it’s a brand new language, particularly with the run game, for everybody. The protection language is very similar, and then the passing game is, as much as we could carry over, we did. But I can’t say enough about the job that Kellen Moore has done. I’ve been extremely impressed just with the way he’s pulled everything together. So we’ve had the time to, particularly in the early months, February and March, to get through the philosophy approach and really the management of how we game plan, how it all fits together, the quarterback position, all of the above. But Kellen’s doing a great job.
Speaker 5: (04:36)
Coach, you were out of the game last year, then you get the Cowboys job and you’ve got to wait because of the pandemic. What were your emotions like when the guys starting finally coming in to the building to go to work?
Mike McCarthy: (04:49)
Well, I think it was a great day for all of us, because the virtual meetings I thought were very productive. I felt very good about the schematic target that we needed to hit with the players, and it was very evident once we all got in the same room, so everybody did a very good job there, but at the end of the day, football is about being together. We’re obviously in a walkthrough type situation here, but the energy and the vibe in the building has been tremendous.
Speaker 6: (05:21)
Mike, how many different plans for camp did you and your staff really have to devise before you actually found out what the schedule would be, and once you finally got it, did you have to scale back on what you would normally do as far as implementation in a first year? Just overall, how much will you throw at the guys?
Mike McCarthy: (05:40)
Well, there’s a comedian in every group, that’s for sure. I’m just kidding, but I think we were just trying to anticipate the way it was going to unfold, was dead wrong on a number of fronts, so there’s just a number. I’d say we had six or seven plans just in the course of the three weeks leading up to it, just because you want to anticipate it, because there’s so much to the unknown, particularly with all the adjustments we’ve made to our facility with COVID, and I can’t say enough about Todd Williams and his staff, the job that they’ve done to pull us all together. But yeah, we spent a lot of time trying to anticipate what the schedule actually was going to be, and I think it helped us as a staff because we had a lot of conversations about fitting it together, particularly with the new facility operations that’s in place, so it definitely took some time.
Speaker 7: (06:33)
Mike, we talked to Leighton yesterday. He told us that he was going to be playing more middle linebacker, and Jaylon was going to be playing Will. Can you expound on how you plan to use those guys and what the defense is going to look like? Are there any other position changes that we should be looking out for?
Mike McCarthy: (06:50)
Well, I don’t think that’s a huge position change. I think the biggest thing we want to emphasize from a defensive philosophy is the ability to play matchup football, the focus on utilizing our players and letting them do the things they do best. I think with that, with Leighton and both Jaylon, they’re impact style players, and we’ve got to make sure we’re giving those guys those opportunities.
Speaker 7: (07:20)
Any other change? Any other guys being moved? I heard of talk in the off season about Chidobe being tried as safety. Will you be looking at using him as safety at all, or are you going to keep your corner?
Mike McCarthy: (07:30)
I think this, and yes, we definitely want flexibility back there. When you get into the personnel meetings, as we’ve already started with Will McClay and Steven and Jerry is the players, it’s so important you have to have the least two things that you do. So if you’re corner, does he have the ability to play nickel? Does he have the ability to be a primary player on special teams? So that’s a common thread just from our approach to how we’re building our roster, but yes, we definitely want, if our corners have safety ability and vice versa and whether we play inside or outside, because I think we all understand it’s a sub defense and sub offense game, so we cannot have enough perimeter.
Speaker 8: (08:16)
Mike, what’s it like without the preseason games? How are you going to approach tackling during training camp? I know you usually don’t take guys to the ground, but do you have to adjust your plan, what would have been in a normal training camp?
Mike McCarthy: (08:31)
Definitely. I think you obviously have to without the preseason games. The teaching progression of the tackling drills, and it’s the phase that we taught. It is the team fundamental phase. Once we come out of special teams and the early phase of practice, we always start with our team fundamentals. Now, tackling will be a part of that, so the progression of how we teach it, how we drill it will be the same. Really, the practice as far as the live segments is something that we’re taking a look at, and really how training camp goes will determine on exactly when we do that.
Speaker 9: (09:04)
Mike, what’s been the biggest challenge or maybe the biggest oddity of this training camp process between the masks and the proximity monitors, things along those lines of trying to conduct a training camp in a COVID-19 world?
Mike McCarthy: (09:18)
Well, the changes I think are obvious. You’ve already stated them, but it really has gone very smooth. I’m very impressed with our, our players and our staff and just the way everybody is. We’ve created the flow that you always look for this time of year, because the days are not as long as they’re going to be here starting at the end of next week, so you want to get into that rhythm and flow from meeting to practice field to correction and all the things that are involved. But I think just the biggest challenge is probably getting everything scheduled, just because of the way, when the schedule was finalized, exactly what we could do. It was pretty close to the day that everybody was starting to arrive.
Speaker 10: (10:05)
Mike, [crosstalk 00:10:07] spoke before this weekend about the challenge of expecting a kid during the season, and also time to adhere to COVID protocol. What conversations have you had with guys about balancing family life and what they do outside the building, while staying eligible and COVID-free inside?
Mike McCarthy: (10:23)
Well, I think that conversation is a constant one. Obviously, it started in our first team meeting. We’ve gone through all of the administrative changes and challenges that are in front of us, obviously presented all the resources that we have to defeat this challenge of COVID-19, and I think our players have done a really good job. I think we’re very fortunate to be in this facility and just the flexibility that it gives us, and frankly, the education process that continues to be upgraded as we go as we learn more and more about the specifics of the challenge ahead of us. But that’s a constant conversation with our football team.
Speaker 11: (11:06)
[inaudible 00:11:06] enforcing the COVID-19 protocols been just around the building. I know it’s pretty exhaustive, all the details of what you can and can’t do, what you need to do. For example, in your weight room, the cleaning and all of that. How has it been with enforcing all those protocols?
Mike McCarthy: (11:24)
Well, I mean, it’s gone really smooth. I can’t say enough about our whole football operation staff as far as the cleaning, the scrubbed down every evening. It goes on after we leave, and we’ve stayed totally detailed and disciplined in the protocols as far as the spacing. We’re so fortunate to have the Ford Center. The Ford Center’s where we have our team meetings, so we’ve taken probably these four sections here at the 50-yard line and have been able to spread the team and the staff out there and created a stage-like atmosphere for the presentation of all of our installs and team meetings and so forth. So that part has gone very smoothly, but it’s become part of our everyday regimen, and our guys are doing a great job with it.
Speaker 12: (12:15)
Mike, do you plan on practicing outside every single day?
Mike McCarthy: (12:18)
I’m sorry, I didn’t hear the first part.
Speaker 12: (12:20)
Sorry. Do you plan on practicing outside every day as you start next week with on field stuff, or will you mix it up a little bit?
Mike McCarthy: (12:28)
I mean, my personal goal is to be on the grass. That’s just a personal preference, but really the weather and those types of things will factor into it. We’re prepared to go outside every morning. That’s the plan, but I’m sure there will be days or a day or two that we may come inside with the Ford Center. So, I mean, it’s very beneficial to have that flexibility, but my goal would to be on the grass as much as we can to start camp.
Speaker 8: (12:57)
Mike, what conversations have you had either between the coaching staff and the players or between you and the organization itself about the racial equality protests that have happened in the other three leagues over the last couple of months and what the Cowboys organization might plan to do once games start?
Mike McCarthy: (13:15)
Well, I think those conversations, as far as social injustice, whether it’s the national anthem, whether it’s COVID-19, these are everyday type focuses for us. I think we all are touched by everything that’s going on personally. I know for me personally, it’s made me take a hard look at the blind spots that I may have in my life and from my experiences, and the one thing I do know and it’s something that will be continuing to echo to everybody involved in football operation is to take a step back and listen. I think we all need to listen more. How can we really be part of the progress? I think the organization statement of protest to progress was right on the money, so that’s really where our focus will be, and we’ll definitely support our players every way we can.
Speaker 7: (14:04)
Some players have indicated that they may kneel. I know Dontari Poe said that’s something he’s considering. Derek Jones has had a edict of players not kneeling. Have y’all softened that stance? Have players indicated they may kneel, and are you guys okay with that?
Mike McCarthy: (14:21)
Well, I think like I just stated in the answer before, these are conversations that we’ll continue to have. It is August 7th, and in fairness to us, this is the first time we’ve been in the building together, but all those things will be talked about. And from my particular stance, it’s a time to step back and listen and make sure we’re in the right place, and we definitely will support our players.
Speaker 13: (14:48)
Mike, being new to the organization and having lost an entire off season and now the preseason games, how do you make sure that you get the evaluation opportunities that you want to put the best roster together at the start of the season?
Mike McCarthy: (15:06)
I think this is really a time to really trust your experiences, trust your instincts. Obviously aware of all the unique challenges this year brings to us, but the reality is the other 31 teams are going through the exact same situation. So you want to create the most competitive environment you possibly can, whether it’s in the classroom, so you can see that just the way the meetings are designed. We’re in the strength and conditioning phase with the veterans. The rookies are in phase two right now on the field, and really next Friday will be our first practice in shells, and then we’ll take that to a different level as far as the competition. But you’re looking at everything. We’re obviously at an eight-man roster point right now, and we’re going to do the best we can to make sure we pick the right guys,
Speaker 13: (16:03)
Mike, going off of that, a big speculation point I know on the outside at least has been about how rookies adapt in such a strange off season. What’s kind of your read on where they are and your expectations for how quickly they can get acclimated?
Mike McCarthy: (16:21)
I’ll say this. Having the opportunity to stand in front of my 14th rookie class, this is an oppressive one. They have really grabbed ahold of this opportunity. You can see it in the classroom segments. There’s confidence throughout the group. I really like the way they bonded together when they were here pretty much the first week by themselves, and then we integrated the Andrew Venner group in there after the second day. But the biggest challenge is to make sure these guys get as much opportunity, because we obviously know just the way this thing is set up, It’s not a normal year, but it’s a good class and it has lot of promise.
Speaker 14: (17:02)
[crosstalk 00:17:02] I talked to Amari during the week. He was talking about how the expectation is three 1,000-yard receivers. You’ve had some really good trios obviously in green Bay, but I’m wondering is that possible when you have a runner like Zeke that you can have that those kind of numbers in the passing game when you still have a runner like Zeke?
Mike McCarthy: (17:26)
Well, I think the most important thing is I love the way he thinks, and I think you want Zeke to feel the same way, because at the end of the day, it’s about ball distribution. That’s always an emphasis, the ability to get the football spread around, because we’re going to need all of our perimeter players when it comes to touches, so that’s really where my focus is. Really the way the games play out and the performance and the execution of the players usually takes care of that, but yes, Zeke is a primary target for us as far as him touching a football, so that will not change.
Speaker 15: (18:08)
Mike, have you guys talked much about sort of play colleague contingencies with the staff if a coaching staff member were to get infected and you had to kind of adjust with who’s calling plays or any kind of duty? Have those conversations been had, and what have they been like?
Mike McCarthy: (18:25)
Well, yes. We’ve had those conversations. I think you have to look at everything with the COVID-19 with your eyes wide open. So yes, there’s a plan for pretty much, I think, everything. But it’s definitely something that we’ve been aware of now for a couple months, and we’ll be ready if we get in that situation.
Speaker 16: (18:47)
[crosstalk 00:18:47] Mike, after not having the opportunity to be around your players for so many months, is there anything outside of football that you’ve done in specific to make sure that you have the opportunity to get to know them more?
Mike McCarthy: (19:00)
Anything outside of football? Well, really just since being back in Dallas, it’s been pretty much all football. I mean, we’re in that training camp mode. There are segments of time and really the opportunity based on the facility that we’re going to entertain trying to do some non-football activities, group dynamic activities, so that’s something that we’re looking into. But really at this particular time, because of all the time that we’ve lost, it’s been all about football.
Speaker 11: (19:38)
With the NFL even beginning after Major League Baseball, there’s an opportunity to learn from what’s happening with that sports league. When you see major league baseball clubhouses, really some of them have seen a number cases with COVID. Avoiding something lik that obviously is of paramount importance. How do you avoid that specifically with your quarterback room? Do you take any specific measures to ensure that you keep Dak and Andy apart from each other anymore? How all do you navigate avoiding that sort of an issue in your quarterback room?
Mike McCarthy: (20:14)
We’ve had that conversation, but I think, also, you can look at it too from a pre-training camp phase, then how you’re going to handle the training camp phase, And then once you obviously get into the regular season, so we’re talking through those things. Most important thing for all of us even, excuse me, in the quarterback room is every classroom we have has the proper social distancing and obviously the emphasis of wearing a mask and all the other protocol points of emphasis is really what we’re doing right now.
Speaker 15: (20:49)
Mike, you’ve got a couple of guys on PUP right now, Tyrone and Dontari. What kind of timetable with those guys with practice set in about a week or so?
Mike McCarthy: (20:58)
I can’t really give you one really til we get onto next week. They’re making progress. I know that the training staff feels very good about the progress that they’re making, but I definitely don’t have a timetable for you right now.
Speaker 17: (21:13)
Do you have any time table or indication from the league of when you may hear something on Randy Gregory?
Mike McCarthy: (21:21)
I have not heard anything on that. Sorry.
Speaker 11: (21:25)
How would you characterize where you stand at fullback following the decision of Jamize Olawale the opt out?
Mike McCarthy: (21:32)
I’m sorry, I didn’t hear the first part of your question.
Speaker 11: (21:35)
How do you evaluate where you stand presently at fullback following the opt-out decision of Jamize Olawale?
Mike McCarthy: (21:40)
Well, I think it’s like any year, frankly. I mean, the fullback position and tight end position is something that I’ve always kind of lumped together when you’re building your schematic menu, because that’s the adjustment you have to make in game week, so that’s no different than our thinking right now as far as we’re we’re in the training camp. So the ability to play multiple positions, both at the fullback and tight end position, will give us what we need schematically.
Speaker 18: (22:13)
Thank you, guys. Appreciate it.
Speaker 14: (22:14)
Mike have any of your coaches-
Speaker 18: (22:16)
Mike McCarthy: (22:16)
Speaker 14: (22:17)
… did they have the chance to opt out if they had wanted to during this process? Is everybody there? Some teams are having their coaches wear shields in meetings. They want to see facial expressions and things. Are you doing anything with your coaches? I’m just curious if they had the opportunity to opt out, or if anybody has.
Mike McCarthy: (22:35)
Well, we talk every day. I think everybody has gone into this with a full commitment and clearly understands the challenges. As far as shields versus masks, that’s a personal preference. We’re fortunate that we have all those resources here. Thank you. Have a great day.