With the 2021 season opener just days away, the Cowboys have announced they'll be without a big piece to begin the year.
Head coach Mike McCarthy told reporters Sunday that All-Pro guard Zack Martin has tested positive for COVID-19 and will not play against the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday night. The team placed Martin on the reserve/COVID-19 list shortly thereafter.
Third-year talent Connor McGovern, who filled in for Martin when he missed time with a concussion and calf injury last season, is expected to start in the multi-time Pro Bowler's place.
Backup guard Brandon Knight was also added to the COVID list after being deemed as a close contact, joining Martin and receiver Noah Brown. The team later signed punter Bryan Anger to the active roster following the new designations.
As was the case during the 2020 campaign, teams will have to stay ready at all times in the event that a player is suddenly removed from the lineup due to a COVID list designation. Sunday's news provided McCarthy and Co. with a stark reminder of that possibility.
The already daunting task of containing the Bucs' defensive line has suddenly received a boost in the degree of difficulty with Dallas losing one of its best blockers. For a promising Cowboys' O-line that has had a rough go of it over the past couple seasons, this latest setback, even if it's a brief one, couldn't have come at a worse time
Not to mention, the unit's collective health is perhaps more important than ever with Dak Prescott making his return from a devastating ankle injury and Ezekiel Elliott looking to have a bounce-back year.
With Martin sidelined, La'el Collins, who missed all of last season with a neck injury and has recently dealt with neck stingers that hindered his ability to practice, and veteran Tyron Smith will be leaned upon heavily to provide stability. Smith played in two games before foregoing the remainder of the season to undergo neck surgery.
In a bit of positive news on the injury front, Collins and guard Connor Williams, whom Dallas activated from the COVID list, returned to practice Sunday with the hopes of being ready for Week 1, per McCarthy.