FRISCO - Connor McGovern has a lot of fans who populate the Dallas Cowboys coaching and scouting staff.
And as he readies to step in for Zack Martin in Thursday's season opener because the All-Pro Martin figures to be unavailable as he enters COVID-19 protocols, McGovern is talking in ways that maybe reflect and instill more confidence.
Said McGovern at the start of the week after the news broke: “Last year helped me a lot with confidence, so I'm ready to go."
“Ready to go” would be nice, with the 2020 work of this then-battered offensive line now looking like it was all about experimentation and growth.
But on Thursday at Tampa and the defending Super Bowl champs? The “growth” of McGovern - a highly-touted third-round pick three years ago - needs to be realized.
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"He'll definitely be ready for this opportunity," coach Mike McCarthy said, praising McGovern’s “work ethic” and terming his spring and summer effort, “Definitely one of the offseason bright spots of an offseason where we had a lot of bright spots."
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Again, McGovern is not new to this; he started eight games last season.
Still, McGovern has never in the NFL played quite at this level of intensity. This is, as NFL guys put it, "The Big Stage.'' National TV. Defending Super Bowl champs. Subbing for a future Hall of Famer is a game with gigantic implications.
"You never know when someone's going to go down or what's going to happen. And being in a situation like this (with Martin on the Reserve/COVID-19 list), you've just got to be ready to step up,” McGovern said.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has talked rather fancifully about the remote possibility that the COVID timetable could somehow be squeezed in a way that would have Martin show up just in time for kickoff, a couple of clear-up coronavirus tests in his pocket.
But that's not the Cowboys reality. Connor McGovern is the Cowboys reality.
“I just feel real comfortable right now,'' said McGovern, who with a successful outing on Thursday would convert even more fans over to his side.