USA Today

What started as a routine Tuesday morning devolved into anything but for the Dallas Cowboys. Enjoying a much-needed win after their 31-28 victory over the Minnesota Vikings in Week 11, the team was all smiles, including an update radio address from owner Jerry Jones on Tuesday morning. Moments after Jones ended his interview, however, the team announced there would be no practice or media availability from anyone in the organization. This was due to what was initially described as a non-COVID related medical emergency with one of the team's staffers.

Markus Paul, the team's strength and conditioning coach, required an ambulance and medical attention was immediately dispatched to him in what became a very emotional scene for the Cowboys and their players. Despite premature and inaccurate reports of his death, Paul remained in Plano Presbyterian Hospital overnight to undergo more tests, but it was announced by the team on Wednesday evening that Paul has passed away.

Owner Jerry Jones issued the following statement: 

"The loss of a family member is a tragedy, and Markus Paul was loved and valued member of our family. He was a pleasant and calming influence in our strength room and throughout The Star. His passion for his work and his enthusiasm for life earned him great respect and admiration from all of our players and the entire organization. We offer our love and support to his family in this very difficult time. Our hearts are broken for his family and all of the individuals whose lives he touched and made better."

The sentiments were echoed by head coach Mike McCarthy:

"We extend our love, strength and support to Markus' family during this most challenging of times and ask that their privacy be respected moving forward. Markus Paul was a leader in this building. He earned the players' respect and attention because he cared so much, and was a naturally gifted communicator -- both on the personal and professional levels. He handled every situation, sometimes with a smile and a pat on the back, and sometimes with tough love. He had innate toughness in a job that requires that qualify, and he was admired throughout the NFL by his peers and the players he coached. It was a privilege to work with him as a coach and laugh with him as a friend. Markus did everything the right way."

Paul joined the Cowboys as strength and conditioning coach in 2018 under Jason Garrett, and was retained by Mike McCarthy this season, despite a list of sweeping changes in other coaching areas. A former safety from Syracuse, he was selected in the fourth round of the 1989 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears, spending several seasons with them before finishing his career as a player with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He'd go on to have tremendous success as an assistant strength and conditioning coach for the New England Patriots after a short stay with the New Orleans Saints, joining the Cowboys in 2018 with five Super Bowl rings on his resumé -- after splitting time with the New York Jets and New York Giants. 

Highly respected around the league and most certainly in the Cowboys locker room, it is with a heavy heart the team must now figure out how to mentally carry the death of Paul while trying to prepare for their second battle with the Washington Football Team on Thanksgiving -- no doubt hoping to win for him going forward.