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Cowboys happy to open 62nd season back in Oxnard for training camp

After training at home last summer during the COVID outbreak, Jerry Jones is glad to see the Dallas Cowboys return to California as training camp begins

OXNARD, Calif. — The Dallas Cowboys held their annual "state of the franchise" training camp presser to open in Oxnard, Calif.

Dallas is returning to Oxnard for the first time since 2019. Last year, due to COVID-19, the Cowboys held camp at The Star in Frisco. Being back in Southern California established a "back to football" theme for the team.

Here are some takeaways from the opening presser.

1. A shot to compete — Cowboys owner, president, and general manager Jerry Jones said the team had a "handful" of players on their 90-man roster who are "in the pipeline" with regards to the COVID-19 vaccine. The Cowboys, according to Jones, are among the leaders in the NFL when it comes to vaccination rates, and he believes the team will be able to compete without any restrictions by Aug. 5 in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game.

Coach Mike McCarthy admitted he had his own reservations about the shot, but after multiple conversations with medical professionals, chose to get the vaccine. Cowboys chief operating officer Stephen Jones said the players did their own research and built their own consensus when it came to getting the vaccine.

2. Dak is back — McCarthy said quarterback Dak Prescott will be a full go for training camp, but will have constant discussions with trainers as he works back from a broken ankle sustained on Oct. 11, 2020.

Prescott signed a four-year, $160 million contract with $128 million guaranteed, a deal that McCarthy says carries the commitment of leadership "Monday through Saturday." Prescott was held out of the team portions of the Cowboys' eight-week offseason program.

3. Zeke and ye shall find — Running back Ezekiel Elliott won two NFL rushing titles in his first three seasons, and hasn't won one since 2018. As a microcosm of the Cowboys' dismal 2020, Elliott had a career low 4.0 yards per carry through 10 games.

McCarthy indicated Elliott, who has been training extensively during the Cowboys' five weeks off before camp, has led off the field this offseason. The former 2016 first-round pick was back at The Star two weeks after Dallas finished 6-10, and has been a fixture in team meetings — even going to quarterback and offensive line meetings, according to McCarthy.

4. Lights, camera, Cowboys — "Hard Knocks" brings its own pressure to NFL training camp, but McCarthy says he isn't going to play up to the camera. The head coach says the HBO producers told him to be himself, which he intends to be as the Cowboys work on evaluating their 90-man roster and preparing for the regular season. 2021 marks the third time the Cowboys will be on "Hard Knocks," the most appearances of any team since the show's 2001 debut.

5. Emotional Jerry — The Cowboys' highly visible owner is known for his optimism and positivity, but the 78-year-old, who has owned the team since 1989, had tears in his eyes at various points throughout the presser.

WFAA's Joe Trahan asked him why he was particularly emotional, and Jones admitted how much he missed being out at training camp, getting to see the media, and being around the game of football, particularly when taking the pandemic of the last year into consideration. Jones says there is no place he would rather be than in Oxnard at training camp.

6. Jimmy in the Ring of Honor? — The two-time Super Bowl winning coach is going into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in less than two weeks, which raises the question as to when he will be inducted into the Ring of Honor. After all, even Randy White and Tony Dorsett were inducted into the Ring of Honor in 1994 after they were given gold jackets in Canton.

According to Jones, the team will relish Johnson's Hall of Fame induction this season and save his Ring of Honor inclusion for later. That process follows the same trajectory of Tom Landry, who was first inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1990 before joining the Ring of Honor in 1993.

7. Los Angeles: the NFL's crown jewel — Jones talked about the cache of having the NFL in Los Angeles, not just with the Cowboys having training camp in Oxnard, but with the Rams and Chargers playing in SoFi Stadium.

Jones, who is on the NFL Network committee, talked about how having the network's headquarters adjacent to SoFi Stadium is part of his larger vision of having the NFL become Tinseltown royalty — even going so far as to say he would love for SoFi Stadium to become more iconic than the Hollywood sign.

Do you think the Cowboys will benefit from returning to California for training camp? Share your thoughts with Mark on Twitter @therealmarklane.

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