By Jori Epstein
Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Gerald McCoy was having a “busy day” on Thursday.
His 1-year-old son, Mars, had struggled to sleep comfortably last night, so dad didn’t get to sleep until 6 a.m. By 7 a.m., it was time to wake Mars’ older siblings for their quarantine home-school regimen that dad has been monitoring each day 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. McCoy already had mapped out his offseason workout of the day for after school ended: Run two miles on the treadmill. Bike six to 10 more. Work through Manny Pacquiao’s ab workout, which he’d cue up on YouTube.
“I always try to find an edge, find an advantage,” McCoy told USA TODAY Sports by phone Thursday afternoon, after he had supervised “movement and snack” school time and just before one kid beckoned for technology help. “So I YouTube great players and people who are great at what they do.”
With a long list of offseason workouts ready and five children to parent, it’s no wonder McCoy isn’t worried about fitting into the Cowboys' scheme two weeks after signing a three-year deal worth up to $18.3 million ($9 million guaranteed) with the team he grew up rooting for.
But McCoy offers more reason why he’s excited for and confident about his potential in Dallas.
No, he doesn’t yet have a playbook from his fifth defensive coordinator in his professional tenure. He hasn’t yet caught up with his seventh head coach as a pro, interim included, since Tampa Bay drafted McCoy third overall in 2010.
But the 32-year-old Oklahoma native doesn’t doubt he’ll fit in.
“I don’t truly believe a coach or a team would go get a player that’s been in the league 10 years doing the same thing, playing his style of football, if they didn’t believe that’s what they needed on the team,” McCoy said. “So the scheme don’t really matter to me.
“They’re bringing guys in who they know are just really good football players and they’ll make the system fit them. That’s why I say this is going to be really fun.”
‘How are you ill-prepared on game day?’
McCoy arrives in Dallas with 139 starts, 59 1/2 career sacks and a Pro Bowl streak from 2012-17. He played nine years in Tampa before last year signing with the Panthers, where he started every game. He has averaged 15 starts and nearly seven sacks per season the last eight years.‘How are you ill-prepared on game day?’
McCoy arrives in Dallas with 139 starts, 59 1/2 career sacks and a Pro Bowl streak from 2012-17. He played nine years in Tampa before last year signing with the Panthers, where he started every game. He has averaged 15 starts and nearly seven sacks per season the last eight years.
“So scheme change?” McCoy said with a laugh. “I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to handle it.”
McCoy isn’t blasť about his move. He’s confident he’ll be able to adjust because of the work he’ll put in rather than in spite of the grind. Practicing against an offensive line with Pro Bowlers Tyron Smith and Zack Martin, as well as quarterback Dak Prescott, running back Ezekiel Elliott and wide receiver Amari Cooper?
“How are you ill-prepared on game day?” he said, marveling at the Cowboys’ stacked offensive roster. “This is what you go against every day. I love competition. And I’m extremely excited to compete against those guys then bring it all together.”
Sure, the NFL's restrictions in light of COVID-19 will hinder McCoy’s transition. Had much of the country not shut down to slow the spread of the pandemic, the Cowboys would have been among teams with first-year head coaches to report to workouts this coming Monday. Instead, McCoy expects no offseason activities and a virtual introduction to his newest playbook. He thinks back to 2011, after his rookie year, when teams missed offseason activities amid an NFL lockout.
Unlike now, however, players at that time could congregate on their own without risking public health or legal repercussions. His teammates organized two days of workouts and scripted two days of OTA practices.
“But that was because we knew the scheme we was going to be in, who our coaches was and all that jazz,” McCoy said. “Can’t do that now because it’s new to everybody.”
Getting to know Cowboys
McCoy is instead focusing on building relationships with new coaches and teammates while putting himself through the same high-intensity home workouts he already had been scripting before social-distancing recommendations went into effect. His Thursday cardio-and-abs plan followed a Wednesday six-station circuit he set up at home for himself and 18-year-old son Marcellus, an Oklahoma football commit. The two cycled through kettle-bell squats, battle ropes, walking lunges with dumbbells, burpees, medicine ball exercises and ab reps as McCoy worked to ensure he’ll be fit and ready to be consistently available in 2020 as he has throughout his career as a pro. (McCoy said Marcellus doesn’t join dad’s workouts every day. “I give him a break,” he said, “because I’m not trying to kill him. He’s a kid.”)
To further his Cowboys camaraderie, McCoy has connected with coaches including defensive coordinator Mike Nolan and defensive line coach Jim Tomsula. An unidentified Green Bay caller on Thursday turned out to be assistant head coach Rob Davis checking in. McCoy already knew fellow defensive tackle Dontari Poe from playing alongside him in Carolina last season; he has communicated, too, with linebacker Jaylon Smith and defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence since signing with Dallas. McCoy said he’s loved the idea of playing with Lawrence since the two met at the Pro Bowl.
He gave Lawrence a heads up when he realized he could sign with Dallas, and the two have talked multiple times since, including Thursday.
“I was talking to DeMarcus right before we got on the call,” McCoy said. “He’s great. … When you played at the Pro Bowl or any type of all-star game with these guys and you’re like, ‘Man, if we only was on the same team.’ And then you get to be on the same team?
“It makes it that much better.”