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Cowboys pre-draft press conference: Jerry Jones says “don’t be stupid over your needs”, talks opt-out players, and Kyle Pitts

The state of the Cowboys just before the 2021 NFL Draft.

Dallas Cowboys Introduce Head Coach Mike McCarthy Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

We are just two days away from the 2021 NFL Draft beginning. America’s Team holds the 10th overall selection in the draft and could take it in a number of different directions. Just what are the Cowboys thinking with about 48 hours to go?

Jerry Jones, Stephen Jones, and Mike McCarthy took to the podium on Tuesday for the team’s annual pre-draft press conference. They also wanted to bring out Sean Lee for his retirement announcement. We have curated all of their responses for you (all answers are paraphrased and not actual quotes).


Sean Lee’s retirement announcement

The General started things off by announcing his retirement from the National Football League. He thanked the Cowboys organization, Jerry Jones, his coaches, and everybody involved with the franchise. He especially noted Jerry Jones belief in him and his phone calls during injuries that really helped him come back after each injury.

Lee noted that he has tried to impress upon younger players how blessed they are being part of the Cowboys tradition.

He noted that he took a great amount of pride in returning from the injuries that he ultimately did. He said that the three-year stretch where he had his toe, neck, and knee injuries that he was in the dumps and wanted to quit in some ways. He said he would get calls from teammates, calls from Jerry Jones, and that those would lift his spirits. He talked about wanting to pay back that support on the field, in the meeting room, and everything in between.

Leighton Vander Esch

Lee talked about this specific spirit when the Cowboys drafted Leighton Vander Esch. He said his goal was to help in any way possible, which included helping Leighton Vander Esch as a growing player, even at his specific position.

Options for the future

Asked about his options for the future, Lee noted that his wife likes being “on the beach” more than he does but that he loves the Cowboys organization and wants to help in any way that he can.

Pressed on whether or not there is a timetable for that idea Jerry Jones said that there isn’t, but that those things have a way of seeking themselves. He said the energy is there obviously which could be an indication that Lee is a Cowboys coach someday.

Lee was asked if he would consider coaching and said that while he has aspirations for that that he doesn’t want to commit to it until he is at a point where he can fully do so. He also noted that he needs to take some time to get over not playing which is something that he is going to miss dearly.

He also noted that he looked to the younger players on the Cowboys for perspective in thinking about retirement. He specifically mentioned Dak Prescott.

Mike McCarthy’s respect for Sean Lee

McCarthy noted that as a Pittsburgh guy he was obviously well-aware of who Sean Lee was when he was in college at Penn State. McCarthy noted his energy will be missed. He had great respect for him, he was a focal point when they played against him, you couldn’t run a normal combo block on him because he would read it. He concluded by saying he looked forward to him hopefully being back in the building.

First defender picked at #10

Asked about whether he believes the Cowboys could take the draft’s first defensive player with the 10th overall pick, Jerry Jones said he believes the team has the chance to have a top defensive player available.

He added that a lot of things can happen there like the phone ringing with a potential trade. He said he finds himself thinking about that and that it is a consideration and that they are very well-prepared.

Difficulty in getting to know players

Asked if the virtual meetings in age of COVID has caused any barriers in getting to know players, Jerry Jones and Mike McCarthy both noted that this path allows them to get to know more players than usual since the methods of communication are easier. They both said they were able to talk to more players in this format, and McCarthy praised the Cowboys scouting department in teeing the meetings up.

“Don’t be stupid over your needs”

In talking about draft strategy. Jerry Jones discussed being ready for a number of options and specifically encouraged not to be stupid in the name of positional needs.

Jerry referenced the selection of CeeDee Lamb in 2020 and how as an organization you have to be prepared for anything and everything, you have to read the circumstances. He also referenced he and Stephen discussing how valuable draft picks are in terms of the salary cap and how if you sign free agents to big contracts it can hurt you in terms of draft picks and cap management.

10 picks is very exciting to Mike McCarthy

The head coach noted that the Cowboys have lost 55 years of NFL experience with players leaving the roster this offseason. He noted that having 10 selections that the Cowboys have an opportunity to re-stock the roster.

He said the fact that the team has that many picks and that with some good fortune they will be right where they want to be.

McCarthy also commented on taking the BPA, but that you are also trying to build a football team. He said that speed is something they could use being a dome team. He said they have size and length, but speed is something they could use.

Medical is the big shortcoming

Jerry Jones specifically noted that the medical portion of the draft is where they have the largest shortcoming this season without a combine. He also commented on the 40 times with different surfaces and clocks, but that medical is the biggest thing.

Infatuation with Kyle Pitts

Jerry Jones said “the infatuation with Pitts” thing was not legitimate, that it implies something that is not the case. He said they are not going to spend inordinate collateral to maneuver to get Pitts. He did say they have a good assessment from Mike and Stephen of whether he could helps them win a Super Bowl.

Players who opted-out

Jerry Jones was blunt in saying opt-out players are compromised, they are missing somewhere like 700 plays last year of tape. He noted many players get better in their senior year, but now you don’t have that information.

Dak Prescott’s rehab

Stephen said from where we sit, they couldn't be happier with Dak’s progress, that he’s done an amazing job with his work ethic and that he will be 110%. McCarthy added that he watched him Saturday and he’s throwing now, doing footwork drills, and is very disciplined and ahead of schedule.

Deciding on which corners to draft

Stephen said they want players that check all the boxes, they want length, they want ball skills and playmaking ability. He noted McCarthy says it every 15 minutes, get the ball. There is a premium on guys who can get the ball. McCarthy said they need them to play both man and zone, but they want to be aggressive with more man than zone or match coverage. They are also looking at a player’s upside, they want to figure out their ceiling. They are focused on guys who can get the ball.

Backup QBs

They noted they have three young guys they are developing and they are making progress. McCarthy said they are always looking to upgrade and would likely add some competition.

Picking up LVE’s option

Stephen noted anytime you make a decision like that, you look at everything. He said LVE has had some injury situations and they will put it all into the mix, where the salary cap is and make a decision. Whether they exercise the option or not doesn't mean they aren’t interested in keeping him here.

Boycott of workouts

McCarty said the players are here and committed to what is available for workouts, following all the guidelines. He feels good about what they have accomplished in the first week and they are close to 100% participation, with some virtual.