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So far this preseason, the Cowboys have lined up for a game on a Thursday night and a Friday night. They’ll play their next on Saturday night. After that, a Sunday afternoon contest before their regular season opener… on another Thursday.
Professional football is a world of routine. And coach Mike McCarthy would like for that routine to begin.
“Frankly, it’s a pain in the [expletive],” he laughed to reporters at the team complex on Friday. “You know, I never complain about more work, but it’s just a lot of shifting gears. I think we all would like to get into some form of regularity, kind of an in-season schedule. We were trying to get that done this week. I’ve never had four eight-day weeks in a row, or at least three.”
At a point in camp when the coaching staff is trying to evaluate players, manage injuries, meet cut deadlines, play host to a reality-television camera crew, and still run meaningful practices, settling into any sort of workflow or rhythm is next to impossible.
The preseason games matter, at least to the guys fighting for a spot on the final roster. But McCarthy would love to be spending more time game-planning for their Week 1 opponent, the defending Super Bowl champs.
“You always would like to look ahead a little bit, start preparing for your opener in that last week,” the coach said. “That’s something we’ve done. We’ve got the new bye week before the first game. It’s different for us, playing a Thursday game. It’s just new. No excuse, but a lot of up and down. But it’s also, frankly, getting us ready because that’s the way our schedule is, too. Our regular season schedule is a little bit up and down with the travel. We won’t really get into a seven-[day] swing here for a number of weeks.”
McCarthy is right; not even making it to the regular season will put the Cowboys on a regular schedule. They’ll kick off the 2021 slate three days before the rest of the league in Florida, hit the opposite coast of the country ten days later for a Week 2 meeting in Los Angeles, and then get a long week to prep before hosting the Eagles… on a Monday night. All before the calendar even turns to October.
The first Sunday-to-Sunday stretch of normalcy for America’s Team? Not until Weeks 4 and 5.
“I guess it’s great preparation for us,” McCarthy finally admitted of the preseason’s roller-coaster scheduling. “I should be thankful.”
Football players and coaches may be creatures of habit, but the world outside the Cowboys’ bubble will be knee-deep into pumpkin spice and haunted hayrides before they can establish a true weekly routine.
Hopefully, they will have learned to thrive on the chaos by then.
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