A lingering COVID-19 issue with the Dallas Cowboys is likely to keep one of their best players out of the opener at Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay.
Four-time All-Pro right guard Zack Martin is among the latest Dallas players to test positive. Asked if he would miss Thursday's matchup with seven-time champion quarterback Tom Brady, coach Mike McCarthy said, "I would say so, yes."
Four other potential starters were in the health and safety protocols late in the preseason but have since returned: receiver CeeDee Lamb, left guard Connor Williams, safety Damontae Kazee and defensive tackle Carlos Watkins.
Backup tackle Brandon Knight was placed on the COVID-19 reserve list along with Martin. Receiver Noah Brown was already on it.
The outbreak started with defensive coordinator Dan Quinn before the second-to-last preseason game against Houston. Quinn is back also.
Third-year pro Connor McGovern, who filled in for Martin when he was sidelined by a calf injury last year, is set to replace him again.
McCarthy said the club held virtual meetings Sunday morning before the players came in for practice. They were set to go back to virtual meetings after practice. McCarthy said they would follow the same procedure Monday, the most important practice before the opener.
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"The numbers are up in our society so I think we understand what we need to do and I think we're more rehearsed in the protocols and the adjustments," McCarthy said. "We're still going to get our work done."
With Martin likely out, the Cowboys will again be without one of their top three offensive linemen after the trio never played together in 2020.
Martin was limited to 10 games with a calf issue, and seven-time Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith played in just two games before season-ending neck surgery.
A hip problem that required surgery kept right tackle La'el Collins out all season.
Lamb said he lost his sense of taste and smell for about a week, but he doesn't have any concerns about his conditioning going into the game against the Buccaneers.
"It's definitely a tough situation that we're going through and that we're battling," Lamb said. "It's kind of unfortunate on our end just considering we're doing everything right and not really understanding where it's coming from. At this point, we've just got to play it safe."