As the Cowboys travel to face the New York Giants in their regular-season finale, they’ll be short two defenders who started last week.
The Cowboys are placing safety Darian Thompson and defensive tackle Justin Hamilton on the reserve/COVID-19 list, the team announced. A player can land on the list due to a positive test result or high-risk close contact with someone who has tested positive. The team not give further details though a person with knowledge of the information confirmed to USA TODAY Sports that a player on the 53-man roster received a positive test result Friday morning. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not publicly authorized to disclose this information.
Thompson and Hamilton each started in the Cowboys’ 37-17 win over the Eagles last week, Thompson’s seventh start of the season and Hamilton’s second. Defensive tackle and safety are arguably the weakest positions on the Cowboys roster—their defensive-tackle depth not helped by season-ending injuries to Gerald McCoy (quad), Trysten Hill (ACL) and an ankle injury currently sidelining Antwaun Woods. Safety Xavier Woods (ribs) was limited this week in practice; his status is officially questionable vs. the Giants.
The Cowboys are fronting a historically bad defense, having allowed more points (450) and touchdowns (54) than any unit in the franchise’s history. No team has allowed more rushing yards per game this season than Dallas’ 161.1 yards.
The Cowboys shifted Friday meetings to a virtual format, with coaches in the building but all players remote as the club underwent contact tracing.
Head coach Mike McCarthy said he anticipated a return to in-person activities, including practice, by Saturday morning.
“We’re going to do the extended protocol today,” McCarthy said. “We’re use the contact tracing protocols that we’ve been using.”
The Cowboys (6-9) face the Giants (5-10) with playoff implications on the line. Loser of the matchup will be eliminated from postseason contention. But if the Washington Football Team (6-9) loses to the Philadelphia Eagles (4-10-1) on Sunday night, the winner of the 1 p.m. Dallas-New York contest will capture the NFC East title.
Through the first 16 weeks of the season, the Cowboys fared better than most of the NFL avoiding COVID-19 cases. Quarterback Andy Dalton tested positive Nov. 3 and missed one game as a result. No other members of the organization were considered high-risk close contacts when Dalton, who was in concussion protocol at the time, tested positive. Cowboys practice squad defensive lineman Walter Palmore tested positive in November as well.
Cowboys defensive lineman Tyrone Crawford and cornerback Chidobe Awuzie each spent time during the season on the reserve/COVID-19 list due to high-risk close contacts.
Thursday, McCarthy praised the organization’s handling of virus prevention and protocol.
“Knock on wood,” he said. “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.
“The whole combination of the commitment … has definitely kept our numbers very, very low. And we clearly understand too our toughest days are probably in front of us.
“Very thankful for the staff that takes care of us with the testing and so forth.”