Richmond Times-Dispatch

SHOWCASE (SORT OF)

Cowboys expect more than 30,000 fans at stadium for clash with WFT

- BY MICHAEL PHILLIPS

Thanksgivi­ng won’t look exactly the same for the Dallas Cowboys, but it will have more than a passing resemblanc­e to past seasons.

Country star Kane Brown will perform at halftime to kick off the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle fundraisin­g campaign, and he’ll do so in front of thousands of fans.

The Cowboys sold 31,700 tickets to their game two weeks ago against Pittsburgh, believed to be the most of any American sporting event during the coronaviru­s pandemic.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said in his weekly radio appearance on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas that he wants to keep increasing that number.

“My plan was to increase our fans as we went through the season, and we followed that plan,” Jones said. “We’ve had almost a third of the attendance in the NFL— the whole NFL. I’m proud of that.”

Jones said he was “not being insensitiv­e” to the pandemic. He said no cases of the virus have been traced back to attendance at Cowboys games.

Tarrant County, Texas, has

noted eight positive COVID-19 cases where the person attended a Cowboys game, but said the cases cannot be directly tied to those games.

“It has everything to do with our facility in my mind,” Jones said. “We have air circulatio­n in that facility that’s three or four times the standards of operating rooms. And then the circulatio­n in the stadium, especially with your roofs and doors open and that type of thing.

“So, my whole point is that all of that, we not only are fitting the guidelines, but we’re also enjoying a very safe experience for our fans out there.”

Fans aside, the game occupies a special place in American culture, and as the Washington Football Team practiced on Tuesday, players spoke about how excited they are to play in the showcase event.

“We would always play in the backyard on Thanksgivi­ng — throw

‘em up, bust ‘em up,” running back J.D. McKissic said of his legendary family battles. “Then to play on Thanksgivi­ng in the National Football League, that’s special.”

Washington is hoping the good vibes extend to the flight home, which hasn’t been the norm.

The Football Team is 1-8 in Dallas on Thanksgivi­ng, the lone exception being Robert Griffin III’s breakout performanc­e in 2012.

Washington receiver

Steven Sims knows a big game on Thursday, which is annually the highestrat­ed TV broadcast of the regular season, can go a long way.

“That’s the game you make your name in,” Sims said. “That’s what we live for. Especially me.”

Even Washington coach Ron Rivera couldn’t help but get caught up in the rivalry excitement.

Dallas coach Mike McCarthy gave a pregame speech to his team last week in which he smashed watermelon­s with a sledgehamm­er to get them fired up to play the Minnesota Vikings, a game they won.

Rivera was asked on Tuesday about his team’s habit of slow starts, and used the opportunit­y to take a jab.

“I mean, I could bring a sledgehamm­er and smash pumpkins,” Rivera said with a laugh.

 ?? THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? ADallas Cowboys fan cheered in the first half of ahome gameagains­t theArizona Cardinals last month. The Cowboys have sold 31,700 tickets for their Thanksgivi­ng gameagains­tWashingto­n. Dallas has been steadily increasing the number of fans allowed to attend Cowboys games amid the pandemic.
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ADallas Cowboys fan cheered in the first half of ahome gameagains­t theArizona Cardinals last month. The Cowboys have sold 31,700 tickets for their Thanksgivi­ng gameagains­tWashingto­n. Dallas has been steadily increasing the number of fans allowed to attend Cowboys games amid the pandemic.
 ?? THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? Cowboys fans have been allowed to attend home games in steadily increasing numbers during the pandemic.
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Cowboys fans have been allowed to attend home games in steadily increasing numbers during the pandemic.

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