Dak Prescott may not be willing to criticize Amari Cooper’s “personal decision” not to get vaccinated, but Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin is.
Irvin, the former Cowboys star who now serves as an NFL Network analyst, ripped Cooper for his decision in a recent interview with TMZ.
“I don’t know what word to put on it, but I am absolutely hot about it,” an animated Irvin said about Cooper’s absence. “Are you joking? I got a guy named Cedrick Wilson catching passes who makes $2 million and a guy named Noah Brown who makes $1 million? And I got a guy who makes $21 million, on the bench, at home, not playing. It’s crazy.”
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The Cowboys’ offense struggled without Cooper against the Chiefs, as they totaled single-digit points in a 19-9 loss against the reigning AFC champion. Cooper’s absence played a major role in their problems, and so did the injury to Cooper’s running mate, CeeDee Lamb.
Now the Cowboys will have to survive without Cooper again for their Thanksgiving game. He was automatically ruled out of that contest when he tested positive for COVID-19 last week, as he had to miss a minimum of 10 days as an unvaccinated player.
And Irvin can’t reconcile with Cooper’s decision because he believes it will hurt Dallas’ chances of making the Super Bowl.
“Our job as athletes is to try to remove any reason of not winning the Super Bowl,” Irvin explained. “It’s why I condition, so fatigue isn’t the reason that I lose the Super Bowl. It’s why I go over plays a million times, so that a mistake is not the reason why I lose the Super Bowl. You have to try to mitigate any issue that can cost you a game or a Super Bowl. And COVID is one of them. You go get vaccinated to try to mitigate it as best you can.
“Now, you can still get it after you get vaccinated, but it’s a different percentage chance of you getting it. And I need you to get that different percentage chance. I’m so hot for Amari Cooper not being on that.”
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Cowboys owner Jerry Jones also addressed Cooper’s status in an appearance on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas. Jones wasn’t nearly as angry as Irvin was about Cooper’s decision, but he acknowledged that things would have been much different if Cooper had been vaccinated.
“First of all, he wouldn’t have been testing had he been vaccinated,” Jones said, per Mark Lane of WFAA. “So, he didn’t have symptoms. So, he wouldn’t have been tested. So, there’s a very likelihood like he is he might have played had he been vaccinated, No. 1. No. 2, after you are tested and you are vaccinated, you can come back quicker. It’s an automatic 10 days if you haven’t been vaccinated. It’s not automatic if you have not been vaccinated and you get to test and testing negative is important, but you have to have a couple tests negative.
“It is very punitive to get the COVID, to be trite, it’s very punitive to get the COVID if you’re not vaccinated in the NFL. It’s very punitive. We have a high alert for unvaccinated players in the NFL, a high alert. And, in fact, it is punitive as we see if in fact you’re not vaccinated and get the COVID as opposed to being vaccinated and getting the COVID. Period. And we’re going through kind of a classic case of how it would have been different vaccinated.”
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Indeed, the NFL’s COVID protocols state that asymptomatic vaccinated players are eligible to return to action after positive back-to-back negative tests at least 24 hours apart. So as both Jones and Irvin mentioned, it’s not guaranteed that Cooper would have been able to play in either of these two games had he been vaccinated, but his chances would have been higher.
Jones seemed to understand Cooper’s decision, but also explained that it could end up costing the team as they look to position themselves for a deep playoff run.
“I’m just, again, I said it early. You check ‘me’ at the door in a football team,” Jones said. “That has nothing to do with the issues of masking, not masking, getting vaccinated, not getting vaccinated. And if I have a ton, I shouldn’t. It just has nothing to do with it. The facts are it is a ‘we’ thing when you walk into the locker room, and anybody is being counted on to pull his weight. Everybody expects that. They look around at each other. They understand everybody’s rights. They do. We do. Everybody understands our rights and our options as it pertains to those rights. But can you — if you forget it’s a ‘we’ thing and how important your part is.
“Amari Cooper is outstanding,” Jones continued. “He’s one of the highest-character guys that you will ever be around in any area. He’s outstanding in his introspect and how he does things. Nobody is saying he isn’t outstanding, but this is a classic case of how it can impact a team. At the end of the day, this is team. You cannot win anything individually.
“The point is, it popped us. This did pop us.”
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Cooper has caught 44 passes for 583 yards and four touchdowns so far in his seventh NFL season. That represents about 19.7 percent of the team’s receiving yards, so that will be a tough void to fill on Thanksgiving.
If Lamb is also out, that will mean 44.7 percent of the Cowboys’ receiving production will be out of action on Thanksgiving. That could prove tough for Dallas to overcome, even in a game against the reeling Raiders.
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