Mike McCarthy had warned that “it’s not a scrimmage, per se.”
The Cowboys’ first-year coach had said that the team’s first 2020 visit to AT&T Stadium would be “more like a practice” — a hybrid, it seemed, of practice-like football and game-day routines. But the Cowboys’ live-streamed Sunday night football notably omitted a feature that any typical practice or game would include.
Players’ jerseys bore no names or numbers.
Chalk up the blank white and blue fabrics to McCarthy’s desire to keep any intel on his new team and new scheme close to the vest. No need for “down-the-line guys” to be “advertising” their skills to 31 other teams, owner Jerry Jones said. The Cowboys will trim their roster from 80 to 53 men by Saturday. They’ll hope a portion of the players they cut clear waivers and return to their 16-man practice squad. “I can’t tell you the number of conversations you have about competitive advantage and disadvantage,” McCarthy said Sunday night after practice. “Frankly, with the fact that we were televising the practice here tonight, we would be exposing our younger players to an evaluation process that the other teams really are not exposing their team to.
“That was the reason behind going with the white and blue shirts this evening.”
For 90 minutes, the Cowboys’ anonymous blue and white players cycled through 79 snaps of offense vs. defense, 16 special teams snaps and 18 snaps mocking two-minute scenarios, per McCarthy. The coach anticipates about 68 plays of offense vs. defense and 22 on special teams during a typical game. The conditioning stress met his benchmarks.
So did the veil of secrecy. Sunday night, and throughout training camp, reporters were prohibited from reporting specific plays, formations or personnel usage. No photos or video, either, save team-supplied intentional footage with attribution. The broadcast steered clear of meaningful on-field shots. While quarterback Dak Prescott found a blank-jersey receiver for a crisp touchdown, the stream aired a days-old interview clip of linebacker Leighton Vander Esch.
How often did the defense mix a 3-4 look into a 4-3 base defense? Sunday viewers wouldn’t know. Which starting receiver might have taken a wildcat snap in a recent training camp practice? No word on that, either.