Dallas Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy is back with the team after undergoing an emergency appendectomy just four days before planning to be the sideline for an NFC East showdown with Philadelphia.
The 60-year-old knew he would be a big part of the story despite the division lead being on the line Sunday night along with Dallas' 14-game home winning streak, which is why McCarthy wanted to get back quickly.
"Anybody that knows me or has ever worked for me, I'm the last guy that wants to take any attention away from the players," McCarthy said during his usual Friday conference call with reporters after missing the in-person sessions Wednesday and Thursday.
"This is a player's game. I've built my program around that premise," McCarthy said. "Everything that touches the locker room is the most important. So that's why it is imperative for me to get back in here and get going and just make sure that the normalcy was totally back in place."
McCarthy returned to the team's facility Friday, two days after leaving to go to the hospital when he thought he was dealing with a stomach virus.
A scan revealed appendicitis and the need for immediate surgery. McCarthy stayed in the hospital overnight Wednesday, then was part of virtual meetings with players and coaches Thursday.
"Shoutout to COVID," defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence said Wednesday, drawing laughter with his reference to the pandemic getting players and coaches used to virtual meetings three years ago. "He knows we're getting ready and we will be ready."
The defending NFC champion Eagles (10-2) have a one-game lead over the Cowboys (9-3) in the NFC East and can take a big step toward back-to-back division titles with a victory.
A Dallas win would leave the teams all but tied in the race to be assured of starting the playoffs at home. The top seed in the NFC — and the first-round bye that goes with it — also would be in play, with San Francisco in the mix as well.
McCarthy is in his fourth season as coach of the Cowboys, but the first as the play-caller after offensive coordinator Kellen Moore didn't return.
Brian Schottenheimer carries that title now along with plenty of experience as a play-caller, but there was never a sense he would have to step into that role for the biggest game of the season.
"I had no stress, and I was at peace with the direction and the correction, the installation of everything that went in Wednesday and Thursday," McCarthy said. "I do give the players a ton of credit, and the coaches, for just keeping it rolling."
McCarthy said the experience, which came less than a month after a milestone birthday, was a reminder to get things checked out sooner rather than later.
He said he doesn't have any more checkups with doctors before the game but still has some instructions that go with the all-clear for Sunday night.
"One of the things I talked about with the surgeon was make sure that I do my part as far as the amount of sleep the night before," McCarthy said. "I'm one for one. I've been a good patient for one day. So hopefully I'll be two for two tomorrow."
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