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Jerry Jones on Zack Martin: 'He Could Play'

Cowboys owner holding out slim hope that Pro Bowl right guard will suit up Thursday

FRISCO - After testing positive for COVID over the weekend, the chances of Dallas Cowboys' Pro Bowl offensive lineman Zack Martin playing Thursday are - as the old Texas saying goes - slim and none, and slim just left town.

Or did he?

While head coach Mike McCarthy reiterated Monday that the team is preparing to face the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers with Connor McGovern at right guard, owner/eternal optimist Jerry Jones went on ESPN and ushered "slim" back to The Star. 

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"He could play," Jones said on First Take. "He'll need two negative tests in the next couple days. Don't hold out for that. But he's doing all the right things."

Jones said Martin will be tested "right up until game time" in attempt to clear him to play in the much-hyped NFL regular-season kickoff.

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"It will be good to get a break," Ezekiel Elliott says.

 "I'm still the guy that thinks he could play," Jones said. "Maybe we can get a couple negative tests. I'm always looking for a pony in there."

McCarthy, meanwhile, said at a press conference that Martin is "as close to being out as you can be without being ruled out."

To play against Tampa, Martin would need two negative tests and exhibit no COVID symptoms.

How valuable is he to Dallas' running game? With him on the field last season the Cowboys averaged 4.5 yards per rush; 3.8 yards without him.

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"You can't minimize it," Jones said. "He's arguably our best player. Best of what, you ask? Our best player. Period. It's unfortunate, and playing this game against the world champs without your best man is a setback."

The Cowboys haven't enjoyed star offensive linemen Martin, La'el Collins and Tyron Smith on the field together in 20 games, since Nov. 28, 2019 against the Bills. In that span Dallas went 8-12. Collins is also bothered by a neck stinger, but as of now is expected to play against Tampa Bay.