Cowboys rookie Micah Parsons was preparing for what he expected to “feel like a home game.”
The Cowboys conclude their regular season Saturday night at Philadelphia in a game fewer than two hours’ driving from Parsons’ hometown of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
Now, his status for the game is in jeopardy.
The Cowboys announced late Wednesday morning that Parsons had entered COVID-19 protocol. He did not practice Wednesday and tweeted later in the afternoon that he was “saddened.”
“I feel like I let my team down,” Parsons said in his tweet. “I’ll be back better than ever. I’m only going to be more hungry!”
At 11-5, the Cowboys have already claimed the NFC East title and will a host a wild-card matchup in 10-12 days. Current NFL COVID-19 protocols give Parsons ample flexibility to return in time for that matchup, as well as for practice next week.
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Parsons becomes the latest member of the Cowboys linebacker room to enter protocol. Keanu Neal missed Dallas’ previous game vs. Arizona, a 25-22 loss. Parsons has not missed a game in a Pro Bowl rookie campaign during which he’s raced to 13 sacks, 30 quarterback hits, 20 tackles for loss (tied for most in NFL), three forced fumbles and three pass deflections.
He spoke Tuesday about how much pride he takes in his availability and versatility.
“I take complete pride in being the most versatile player in the NFL,” Parsons said. “When I came in here, (Assistant to the head) coach Rob Davis said the best ability is availability. I took that and a lot of ownership because I feel like if I want to be on the field, I’ve got to be able to do anything asked of me or more. I just like lining up everywhere and just being dynamic. It’s almost like at recess for me. I feel like I’m a kid again like let me go tackle my buddy, let me go cover my buddy and I’m going to go tackle. It’s a whole bunch of fun for me. I just really enjoy it.”
The Cowboys could return Neal for the matchup, which would be welcome given linebacker is their thinnest position due to injuries. They signed free-agent linebacker Devante Bond last week when Neal was out with his second bout of COVID-19 this season. Parsons played 68 snaps (97%) in that game, 2018 first-round selection Leighton Vander Esch contributing 40 (57%) while safety Jayron Kearse moved around the field.
In all, Parsons has played the most snaps among the Cowboys’ front seven this season, his 903 defensive snaps amounting to 83.9%.
“When it comes to terms like that of just impacting the game, I would definitely put myself up there with those guys as being defensive player,” he said.
Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy and owner Jerry Jones each said this week that they will “play to win” at Philadelphia and that the starters will play in a divisional game between foes who have each secured playoff berths. The extent of that play time remains to be determined.
The Cowboys enter their regular-season finale 5-0 in the division.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein.
‘This too shall pass away’ this famous Persian adage seems to be defeating us again and again in the case of COVID-19. Despite every effort