FRISCO, Texas — The Cowboys debuted their first full-pads practice of training camp on Monday.
Before team period arrived, an expected starter suffered a season-ending injury.
Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy ruptured his right quad tendon during a drill against fellow lineman Antwaun Woods. McCoy needed assistance to walk off the indoor field of the Star’s Ford Center.
McCoy needs surgery and will miss the 2020 season, executive vice president Stephen Jones said.
“It’s certainly disappointing,” Jones said. “We’re first and foremost disappointed about Gerald, but also it’s disappointing for us. He was one of our major acquisitions there in the offseason in free agency.
“Unfortunately, that’s why you have to have a deep roster.”
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In March, the Cowboys signed the six-time Pro Bowler to a three-year deal worth $18.3 million.
McCoy, 32, brings 139 starts’ and 59 ½ career sacks’ worth experience to a line that had been pooling depth. McCoy averaged 15 starts and nearly seven sacks per season in the eight years before he came to Dallas.
“Just want the fans to know I truly appreciate the warm welcome and I’m sorry this happened,” McCoy said in a statement he shared with USA TODAY Sports. “The Jones family opened their doors to an old vet to have an opportunity to come and help this team win and I was beyond excited to be a Cowboy. I was really looking forward to this amazing opportunity we have in front of us. I will remain the mentor I am to the young guys and do my part to make sure that this team goes where it needs to. As far as my mindset people deal with real life problems everybody (sic) day especially now with the state of our country. There is a lot of pain and heartache taking place right now that all our attention needs to go towards whether it is the pandemic or our fight for social justice. In retrospect what I’m dealing with is minimal compared to that. Therefore this is light work for me. Anybody who knows me knows I love a challenge. CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!! I will be back better. LETS GET IT!!”
Head coach Mike McCarthy praised McCoy just before practice Monday.
“Can’t say enough about the shape he’s in and just the energy that he brings to our defensive front,” McCarthy said. “He’s a great fit for us. We look for him to be a force inside.”
McCoy, too, had raved about the opportunity to line up against a talented Cowboys offense and Pro Bowl-laden offensive line.
“How are you ill-prepared on game day?” he told USA TODAY Sports in the offseason. “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.”
Dallas defenders have referenced a more complicated scheme under coordinator Mike Nolan and defensive line coach Jim Tomsula than last year’s Rod Marinelli philosophy favoring speed and simplicity. DeMarcus Lawrence is expected to continue anchoring the left end but see movement. He’s also worked from different stances as training camp gathers steam.
The Cowboys signed four-time Pro Bowl defensive end Everson Griffen and Aldon Smith—talented early but hasn’t played since 2015—for outside rushers. Defensive lineman Tyrone Crawford was activated Friday from the physically unable to perform list after rehabbing hip surgery. Dontari Poe is still on the PUP list with a quad injury, but McCarthy said he feels good about Poe’s progress on mostly-strength and conditioning drills as he works his way back. Monday, after McCoy’s injury, Woods and Trysten Hill got significant work on the interior line. The Cowboys drafted defensive tackle Neville Gallimore (Oklahoma) in the fourth round and defensive end Bradlee Anae (Utah) in the fifth.
Crawford, who missed the 2013 NFL season after tearing his Achilles on a non-contact drill in training camp, empathized with McCoy.
“It’s never fun to have it happen like that because you weren’t even competing at that time, Crawford said. “It’s a different feeling than if it was to happen during a physical football play against your teammates.
“It’s always sad to see.”
Jones said the club does not expect to seek out a replacement for McCoy even as front-office members stay apprised of opportunities like last week’s signing of Griffen.
“We’re still fired up about our personnel there and we’ll probably be going with what we have,” Jones said. “We really felt like our defensive front was one of our defensive groups coming into camp.
“So we’ll just have to work from here.”
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein