The Dallas Cowboys like to build around the biggest stars, not a bunch of no-names.
But that’s exactly what the team was during Sunday’s 90-minute scrimmage. With the action broadcast on a livestream, coach Mike McCarthy put his players in blue and white jerseys with no names or numbers.
“I can’t tell you the number of conversations you have about competitive advantage and disadvantage,” McCarthy told reporters. “Frankly, with the fact that we were televising the practice here tonight, we would be exposing our younger players to an evaluation process that the other teams really are not exposing their team to. That was the reason behind going with the white and blue shirts this evening.”
It seems the level of secrecy typically employed by the New England Patriots is catching on more than ever this year, with the COVID-19 pandemic safety protocol and cancelling of preseason games also doubling as insulation against leaking information. The element of surprise in Week 1 games could be greater than ever.
Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst admitted he has scouts read local reporting from media related to player development.
Chuck Noll had the Pittsburgh Steelers practice without names and numbers in the 1970s and 1980s, Belichick’s Patriots tried the no-numbers idea until the NFL told him to knock it off and the New York Giants practiced all this training camp without names on the jerseys under Belichick disciple Joe Judge.
Like Judge, McCarthy says he does it so the players and coaches get more familiar with each other’s tendencies, rather than relying on cheat-sheet identifications.
“I think it’s an excellent tool to use with your coaching staff and your personnel staff,” McCarthy said. “You’ve got to know your players better [than anybody else] and know the body types, know their mannerisms. It will be a good exercise for us when we watch the tape.”