Dallas Cowboys: Tony Dorsett

Young Guns: DeMarco Murray

January, 20, 2014
Jan 20
Since 2010, the Dallas Cowboys have done a better job of finding talent. As a core of Tony Romo, Jason Witten, DeMarcus Ware, Miles Austin, Jason Hatcher, Anthony Spencer and Doug Free inch closer to the end of their careers, the Cowboys need a group of young players heading into their primes to take ownership of the team. Cowboys reporters Calvin Watkins and Todd Archer analyze those players from the class of 2010 on.

Player: DeMarco Murray
Position: Running back
Age: 25

Outlook: When Tony Dorsett and Emmitt Smith are the measuring sticks of every Cowboys running back, then it is hard to measure up, but Murray had his best season in 2013. He became the first Dallas runner to top 1,000 yards in a season with 1,124 on 217 carries while playing in only 14 games because of a knee injury. He has yet to play in a full season in his first three years but his importance to the offense cannot be understated. Murray's 5.2 yards per carry was most by any runner with more than 200 carries on the season. He had three 100-yard games on the season and had 696 yards in the final eight games of the year. And he could have had more. Jason Garrett felt there were times Murray left yards on the field by not finishing his runs. Murray was also productive in the passing game, catching a career-high 53 passes for 350 yards and a touchdown.

Murray is signed through 2014. The Cowboys will have a decision to make on his long-term future. The last time they signed a running back to a megadeal, they were burned by Marion Barber. However, Barber’s running style might have curtailed his career. Murray is more elusive than Barber, but the Cowboys will have to determine if a running back is worth big money or if they can find a runner to do all that Murray does and all that he means.

What to make of DeMarco Murray?

January, 2, 2014
Jan 2
IRVING, Texas -- With the way the NFL has morphed into a passing league, finding the so-called "franchise" running back is less important.

Unless it is Adrian Peterson or LeSean McCoy, are there any other "franchise" running backs? There are solid runners. There are teams that win with OK runners.

Cleveland traded its 2012 first-round pick, No. 3 selection Trent Richardson, to Indianapolis during the regular season. The Colts gave up a lot to get Richardson, but he did not put up big numbers -- 458 yards, three touchdowns. A runner wasn't taken in the first round of the 2013 draft.

The Cowboys don't have to worry about DeMarco Murray's future until 2015. A third-round pick in 2011, Murray is coming off his best season. He finished 10th in the NFL with 1,124 yards. Of the backs with 200 carries in 2013, Murray had the highest yard-per-carry average (5.2).

After getting over a knee injury that cost him two games, Murray became a difference maker for the Cowboys down the stretch. He upset the coaches some by not gaining the extra yards, but they did not use him enough at times.

The Cowboys are 5-6 when he does not play in his first three years. They are 11-0 when he gets at least 20 carries in a game.

"We've always felt good about DeMarco," coach Jason Garrett said. "If you think about his rookie year, when he had opportunities to play, he played well right from the start. He made a big impact on our team. He, like some of the other guys on our team, has dealt with injuries. When he's been out of the lineup over the course of his career, we haven't played as well. When he's been in the lineup and going and playing well and feeling healthy and playing like himself, he has been a really, really effective player for us and helped our team create some of that balance we haven talking about."

Murray's play late in the season started to alter what I thought he could be. I viewed him as just another back, one whom you could find every year in the draft. But he developed a feel for the zone scheme as the year went on, is solid as a pass catcher and can block.

Is he the heir apparent to Tony Dorsett and Emmitt Smith? No. But he looks as if he could be what Julius Jones never developed into after a strong start to his career.

I'm not sure you commit big bucks to him after next season, but he might have more value to the Cowboys than to another team.

How do you view Murray? Is he an elite back, just below the Peterson/McCoy level? Is in an average back with one good season? Is he someone the Cowboys should lock up long term?

Storied pasts loom over Cowboys, Packers

December, 13, 2013
IRVING, Texas -- As the Cowboys walk to the team meeting room every day, they are met with pictures of Dallas' five Super Bowl winners. Each collage has a team photo and pictures of smiling players, coaches and executives from winning NFL championships.

At Lambeau Field, the photos from the great moments in Packers history line the wall from the tunnel to the locker room. When the stadium was renovated years ago, they took a row of old bricks and moved it to the new tunnel so players can say they walk over the same ground as the greats who played at Lambeau Field.

With a loss Sunday, though, either team will need even more help to just make the postseason.

[+] EnlargeTony Romo and Aaron Rodgers
AP Photo/David StlukaCowboys QB Tony Romo, right, and Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers know the burden that comes with playing for franchises trying to recapture past glory.
Like the Pittsburgh Steelers and San Francisco 49ers, the Cowboys are constantly chasing ghosts from past teams.

The Packers and Cowboys have combined for 18 NFL championships (Green Bay 13, Dallas five) and nine Super Bowls (Green Bay four, Dallas five). They produced one of the NFL’s iconic games -- the Ice Bowl -- in the 1967 NFC Championship. They were coached by legends in Tom Landry and Vince Lombardi. They rekindled the rivalry in the 1990s, meeting in the playoffs from 1993 to 1995.

The current teams carry something of a burden with them because of the successful pasts.

“We always look at it as a sense of pride and energy to tap into,” Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy said. “We think it’s very important to have that and recognize it and honor it, so I always refer to it as there’s pride in the bricks of Lambeau Field and it’s something we need to tap into. We talk to our current team about it and how important it is to win and represent the Green Bay Packers the right way.”

Jason Garrett does not talk about the expectations laid out from the likes of Roger Staubach, Bob Lilly, Tony Dorsett, Randy White, Mel Renfro, Michael Irvin, Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith. He talks about the standard those players and teams set.

“You want to be in a place where there’s a high standard for achievement,” Garrett said. “I think that’s a good thing. That brings the best out in people. What we try to do each and every day is be our best. Come to work as players and coaches and put our best foot forward and get ready for our challenges each week and again, embrace the past. That’s a good thing. ... That drives us. That’s part of what drives us to achieve, really, each and every day, and certainly each season.”

Tony Romo is constantly measured against Staubach and Aikman. Aaron Rodgers is measured against Bart Starr and Brett Favre, but he has the Super Bowl ring that Romo is still looking for, having beaten the Steelers at AT&T Stadium in Super Bowl XLV.

Rodgers has 23 teammates on the roster with a Super Bowl ring.

Romo hopes one day to have his own, so he and his teammates can have their pictures on the wall holding the Lombardi Trophy.

“You want to be a part of a storied franchise,” Romo said. “It just makes it important. You want a challenge. You want it to matter, and you want it to be important. That’s what’s great about this organization and great about our fans.”

Five Wonders: Tagging Jason Hatcher?

December, 3, 2013
IRVING, Texas -- The Cowboys have had some time to wonder some things after their win on Thanksgiving against the Oakland Raiders.

Every Tuesday as always wonder about some things. Five Wonders is back and off we go:
  • Jason Hatcher is having a career year and it could not have come at a better time. Hatcher will be a free agent after the season and already has more sacks this year than he has had in any season. And he could make the Pro Bowl, which is something he mentions frequently. But Hatcher will turn 32 next July. I'm on record saying the Cowboys can't pay age. But I wonder if the Cowboys would consider using the franchise tag on him. It would chew up $9-10 million in salary-cap room, but they would buy some time in finding defensive line help for beyond 2014. The Cowboys will have to make a number of moves to get under the cap, but they would be able to fit Hatcher in at the franchise number. Is it worth it? The Cowboys put the tag on Anthony Spencer last year, paying him $10.6 million. I thought it was the right move at the time and did not second guess it after Spencer's knee injury cost him all but one game this season. I'm not as sure about tagging Hatcher. They might have to restructure more deals than they would want and that would also affect the cap in 2015 and beyond. And last year the defensive line market was thin, even for the top players.
  • I wonder if the Cowboys will have a decision to make on backup quarterback Kyle Orton in the offseason. He will make $3.25 million in 2014 and count $4.377 against the salary cap. The Cowboys will have to do a lot of maneuvering to get under the cap in the offseason and could just restructure Orton's contract in the same way they did last March. The Cowboys have yet to start the clock on finding Tony Romo's replacement, which is another reason to keep Orton around. But the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers also offer up valid reasons to keep Orton even if he does not throw a pass this year. The Packers season has gone to shreds without Aaron Rodgers. They have not won since losing Rodgers, turning first to Seneca Wallace, who got hurt, then to Scott Tolzien and now they're on Matt Flynn. The Bears are 2-3 without Jay Cutler, though it is difficult to put much of the blame on Josh McCown. He's done a nice job and been a stabilizing force, but the Bears appeared to learn their lesson when they lost Cutler in previous seasons. Romo turns 34 in April. He's battled injuries in the past and had back surgery last April. Keeping Orton makes sense and something I think the Cowboys do. It's an insurance policy worth keeping.
  • I wonder if the Cowboys had Laurent Robinson in the back of their mind when they have signed some of these defensive linemen this season. Confused? Hear me out. In 2011, Robinson had a career year with 54 catches for 858 yards and 11 touchdowns, but because the Cowboys signed him to a minimum salary-benefit contract they were unable to re-sign him before he hit free agency. Jacksonville swooped in with a five-year, $32.5 million deal with $14 million guaranteed. It was way too rich for the Cowboys -- and ultimately the Jaguars -- but without the restriction Robinson would have re-signed with the Cowboys at a much cheaper rate. That brings me to the defensive linemen. When the Cowboys signed George Selvie, Everette Brown, Jarius Wynn, Drake Nevis and Martez Wilson, they made sure they got a second year on the contracts. They are all signed through 2014, so if they hit -- and Selvie is a hit -- the Cowboys hold their rights for a second year. That's a shrewd move, in my opinion.
  • I wonder if DeMarco Murray can reach 1,000 yards. Yep, I do. Murray missed two games with a knee injury and essentially missed a third when he got just four carries for 31 yards against the Minnesota Vikings when the game plan called for Tony Romo to pass the ball early and often. But with four games to go Murray needs 303 yards to reach 1,000. In his last three games Murray has rushed for 89, 86 and 63 yards. If he keeps up that pace, he would get there. Reaching 1,000 yards should not be that difficult, but the Cowboys sure seem to make it difficult after years of Tony Dorsett and Emmitt Smith almost annually reaching the mark. The last Dallas runner to go for more than 1,000 yards was Julius Jones (1,084) in 2006 and that's the Cowboys only 1,000-yard rusher since 2001.
  • I don't wonder if the Cowboys will rue the day they lost Alex Tanney, just as I don't think the Cowboys have rued the day since losing Matt Moore oh so many years ago. (Long-time readers will know how I feel about Moore). The Cleveland Browns signed Tanney off the Cowboys' practice squad last week. I liked what Tanney did in a short time with the Cowboys over the summer. He showed some things in his preseason work, but there will be a new Tanney next summer. Or even next week. I wonder if the Cowboys add a quarterback to the practice squad over the final month of the season. They could use the last four weeks to bring a guy in for a free look and essentially give him a “signing bonus” for four weeks of being on the practice squad and sign him to a futures deal when the season ends.

Recapping the Cowboys' week

November, 9, 2013
IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys will say hello to their former defensive coordinator Rob Ryan on Sunday when they play the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.

As we recap the Cowboys' week, much of the focus was on Ryan, whose defense did not perform well enough in 2011 and was racked by injury in 2012. So far things have been much better for Ryan in New Orleans.

But Jean-Jacques Taylor said the Cowboys do not miss Ryan.

In our ESPNDallas.com Hot Button question, I think the Cowboys made the right move in firing Ryan. Calvin Watkins took to Ryan’s defense.

Sean Payton and Jason Garrett are old friends. One is calling the plays again. One isn’t.

DeMarcus Ware will make his return Sunday after a three-game absence with a quadriceps strain.

The Cowboys are looking for a win against a good team this season. Beating the Saints could go a long way for them.

Jimmy Graham will be the focal point of the defensive game plan.

Dez Bryant’s back caused a stir this week.

JJT had a great column on what Tony Dorsett’s revelation that he has CTE means to him and his son, who plays football.

In this week’s Double Coverage, I go over the game with Mike Triplett.

Running game to blame for Romo's record?

August, 23, 2013
Put in the historical context of Cowboys’ championship teams, Roger Staubach’s point about Tony Romo needing a better running game is right on.

Fact: The Cowboys have never won a Super Bowl without a top-five rushing offense.

Ed Werder joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett for his weekly visit to give his thoughts on the Sean Lee extension, discuss who Jerry Jones should sign to an extension next and take a look at the other three teams in the NFC East.

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Staubach and Troy Aikman had the luxury of working behind dominant offensive lines and sharing the backfield with fellow Hall of Famers in Tony Dorsett and Emmitt Smith. (The Cowboys didn’t have a Hall of Fame running back on their first title team, but Duane Thomas, Calvin Hill and Walt Garrison formed a heck of a committee.)

Here’s a quick look at the Dallas running game’s NFL rankings during the Cowboys’ championship seasons:

1971 – 3rd
1977 – 4th
1992 – 5th
1993 – 2nd
1995 – 2nd

By contrast, Romo has never quarterbacked a team with a top-five rushing offense. The only time the Cowboys ranked among the top 10 rushing offenses during his tenure as a starter just so happens to be the lone season in which the franchise won a playoff game over the last 16 seasons.

The Cowboys’ rushing ranks in the Romo era:

2006 – 13th
2007 – 17th
2008 – 21st
2009 – 7th
2010 – 16th
2011 – 18th
2012 – 31st

So Romo has only had a running game good enough to contend for the Super Bowl once, right? Not so fast. The Cowboys’ rushing offense has ranked higher than the Super Bowl champions’ four times during Romo’s tenure. The Giants won the Super Bowl two seasons ago despite ranking dead last in the league in rushing.

The Super Bowl winners’ rushing offense rank over the last seven seasons:

2006 Indianapolis Colts – 18th
2007 New York Giants – 4th
2008 Pittsburgh Steelers – 23rd
2009 New Orleans Saints – 6th
2010 Green Bay Packers – 24th
2011 New York Giants – 32nd
2012 Baltimore Ravens – 11th

The game has changed since the Cowboys’ glory years. It certainly helps to have a good running game, but it’s far from a prerequisite for winning a Super Bowl.

Now, more than ever, the NFL is a quarterback’s league. The lack of a quality running game might be a reason (or an excuse) for Romo’s lack of playoff success, but his peers have found a way to overcome the same problem in recent years.
There are plenty of choices for the Dallas Cowboys Mount Rushmore, but we can only pick four. It wasn't easy, but we've narrowed down our list. Does it look like yours? Here's ours:

Tom Landry: He's the George Washington of our Cowboys Mount Rushmore. Landry, with fedora of course, has to be on any monument dedicated to all-time Cowboys greats. One of the greatest coaches of all time, Landry roamed the sidelines from 1960 to 1988 and won two Super Bowls, five NFC titles and 13 division titles. He was an innovator, creating defensive systems that are still mimicked.

Roger Staubach: He led the Cowboys to two Super Bowl titles (and four Super Bowl appearances), won a Heisman Trophy and engineered some memorable comebacks. Staubach set the standard by which all quarterbacks of America's Team are measured.

Jerry Jones: Probably the most controversial of our choices, especially if you consider this club's run of mediocrity since the mid 1990s. But do the Cowboys win three Super Bowls in the 1990s without Jones? He botched the handling of Landry's firing, but he hired Jimmy Johnson as his replacement and watched the team transform back into a champion. He isn't on here as a GM. He's on this monument as an owner.

Emmitt Smith: An argument could be made for any of the "Triplets" and maybe even more than one being on this Cowboys Rushmore. But we chose Smith, the NFL's all-time leading rusher. The Cowboys' ground game was nearly unstoppable during Smith's prime and he was an iron man, playing through injuries and leading by example.

Others considered (in no particular order):

Troy Aikman: Won three Super Bowls and led the club's productive offense. He's one of the greatest QBs in franchise history.

Bob Lilly: The former TCU defensive tackle was the first draft pick in Cowboys history. And it was terrific pick. Lilly was an All-Pro seven times and anchored the "Doomsday Defense."

Michael Irvin: The wide receiver made big plays, clutch scores and certainly fired up his teammates. A part of the "Triplets," Irvin was dynamic.

Tex Schramm: The first GM in Cowboys history helped put together a winning franchise -- hiring Tom Landry and Gil Brandt -- not to mention adding the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders and adding many key rules to the NFL. He did a lot for not only the Cowboys, but the league.

Tony Dorsett: If not for Emmitt, he'd be the top running back on this list.

Randy White: The Hall of Famer played in Dallas for more than a decade as one of the best linemen in league history.

Drew Pearson: He's the reason No. 88 carries so much meaning for the Cowboys. He made the big catches and was reliable.

Don Meredith: Dandy Don spent nine seasons with the Cowboys after playing for SMU and was an important leader during the Cowboys' early years.

Jimmy Johnson: Rebuilt the Cowboys into a champion and won two Super Bowls. Barry Switzer won another Super Bowl with the team that Johnson assembled.

Herschel Walker: Seems strange, doesn't it? But without the haul the Cowboys received from Minnesota, do the Cowboys win three Super Bowls?

Greatest NFL coaches: No. 8 Tom Landry

June, 4, 2013
Jason Garrett is entering his third full season as the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, and many are convinced that if he doesn't make the playoffs, it will also be his last. So let's pause today to discuss a man who held Garrett's job for 29 years. Our countdown of the top 20 coaches in NFL history makes its stop today at No. 8, where we find Tom Landry.

Todd Archer joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss what he's looking for during the third session of OTAs, a potential Sean Lee contract extension and why people underestimate Miles Austin's value.

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Landry was the Cowboys' first coach and lasted from 1960 to 1989. During that time, he went to five Super Bowls, won two of them and posted an incredible streak of 20 straight winning seasons. (Herein lies the critical difference from my first sentence, as Garrett has yet to have one). He was a winner, but also an innovator who's credited with the invention of the 4-3 defense, the "flex" defense (in which two of the four down linemen would move off the line pre-snap depending on the offense's formation) and the shotgun offense. He actually invented the 4-3 (removing one of the five down linemen and adding the middle linebacker position) while defensive coordinator of the New York Giants.

Landry was famous for his stone-faced personality and his trademark fedora, and former Cowboys running back Tony Dorsett recounted for Jean-Jacques Taylor a story about a time he (Dorsett) was late for a game his parents had come to see and Landry told him he wasn't going to start:
I was scared to death. I thought he might fine me, but I was scared he might cut me. So I get in there and I'm pleading my case, but it's not working. Finally, Coach Landry says, "You're not going to start and you're probably not going to play. OK." When Coach Landry says OK, that means the conversation is over.

At first, I'm staring daggers at him 'cause I don't even want to think about my mom and dad being at the game and I'm not playing. Then I feel some big ol' tears start welling up in my eyes, so I just got up and left. I didn't start, but when I finally got in the game, I didn't want to give him a reason to take me out. I had a big game and scored a long touchdown. The next day during our film session, Coach Landry says, '"Maybe, you need to be late more often."

We're probably in the midst of a generation that knows Landry as "the guy with the hat" and doesn't fully understand the depth of what he meant to the Cowboys franchise or the league itself. That is, of course, one reason why this whole exercise is so great. It gives us a chance to bring some significant NFL historical figures to life for people who might not appreciate what they missed.
Ed Werder talked briefly about DeMarco Murray's durability with Fitzsimmons and Durrett on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM today.

ESPN NFL Insider Ed Werder joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss Jerry Jones' recent comments, Cowboys OTAs, Dez Bryant and more.

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Murray has missed nine games because of injuries in his brief two-year career.

In comparison, Emmitt Smith missed a total of seven games in his career with the Cowboys and none his first two seasons. Tony Dorsett missed just 10 games in his career, none his first two season,s and three in the first five years of his career.

You could say, well, Dorsett and Smith are Hall of Fame players, and durability is one reason for their success.

Let's examine another former Cowboys starting running back: Julius Jones.

Jones missed 11 games in a four-year career with the Cowboys, including eight his rookie season. He missed 11 games the first two years of his career and none thereafter.

The Cowboys need Murray on the field, and his absence from the first day of the organized team activities on Tuesday raised some concerns about his long-term health.

It's part of the reason why the Cowboys drafted Joseph Randle in the fifth round. You need quality backups, at least someone who can start in case the starter goes down with an injury.

Murray is a good running back, has the right attitude about the position, is physical, tough and fast. Health is the biggest problem for him at this stage of his career.

Should it worry the Cowboys?
OXNARD, Calif. -- Head coach Jason Garrett doesn’t like comparing players, and he’s also hesitant to compare what one player has done from one season to the next.

That’s his take on holding DeMarco Murray to the high standards he set during his first handful of games as the Cowboys’ feature back, when he inspired comparisons to Hall of Famers Emmitt Smith and Tony Dorsett by bursting on the scene with a franchise-record 253-yard game and another pair of 100-plus-yard performances over the next few weeks.

“I think it’s really important to come to work every day and try to do your best and get better, improve in all areas and get yourself physically and mentally prepared to be your best and not worry about what you’ve done in the past, either good or bad,” Garrett said. “We talk to our players about that. When you come off a season like he’s had, I think it’s particularly important to do that.

“Get himself healthy, come to work every day and just become a better football player.”

Garrett compared it to a college kid coming off a huge freshman season who has a so-called sophomore slump when his production dips a bit.

“Well, the conditions might have changed,” Garrett said.

Yeah, but here’s the thing for Murray. His conditions should be changing for the better. If that isn’t the case, Garrett and the front office made poor personnel decisions by signing fullback Lawrence Vickers and guards Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau.

It isn’t realistic to expect Murray -- or any back, for that matter -- to go for 253 yards in a game again. However, there’s no reason a healthy Murray shouldn’t be able to far surpass the 897 yards and two touchdowns he rushed for in 13 games as a rookie.

The good news for Garrett: External expectations are completely irrelevant to the Cowboys’ featured back.

Said Murray, “No one sets the bar higher than me.”
It's hard to replace a legend. Really hard.

The Cowboys have been searching for somebody to fill the shoes of Emmitt Smith, the NFL's all-time leading rusher, for almost as long as they did waiting for Tony Romo to come along and fill the void created by Troy Aikman.

Enter DeMarco Murray. We don't know if Murray is the new star running back. He showed flashes of doing it in 2011 -- gaining 897 yards on 164 carries in 13 games -- until his season ended with a fractured ankle. Those are good numbers, especially considering what the Cowboys have had to work with at running back the last few years.

This is how bad things are at the running back position for the Cowboys.

Tony Dorsett led the Cowboys in rushing for 10 consecutive seasons. Two different players led the team in rushing the next three seasons. Smith came along and added stability, leading the team in rushing 13 times, during which the Cowboys won three Super Bowl titles.

When the Cowboys parted with Smith, the next few years were unnerving. Five different backs led the team in rushing, including two Joneses (Julius and Felix). And after a big-money contract to Marion Barber, who has since retired, the Cowboys are left with Murray.

It's not a bad thing. You can tell he might be special.

Murray's got speed, power and the smarts necessary to navigate the position. He uses his fullback well and -- despite another injury before training camp (hamstring) -- durability might not be a factor.

Jason Garrett doesn't mind running the ball, as long as the offensive line and fullbacks make the necessary holes to get it going.

The numbers indicate that Garrett trusts Murray.

He had five games with 20 or more carries, the most for any running back since Garrett became offensive coordinator in 2007. Murray also became the first back under Garrett to have four consecutive games with 20 or more carries.

Felix Jones, Murray's backup, has had just two games with 20 or more carries since he was drafted in 2008.

Barber, a former starter, had four 20-carry games in 2008, but he only reached that mark once more before being released.

It's hard to say what Murray will do in 2012, but the Cowboys feel confident in his abilities to be an 18-20 carry back -- and the results that will come with it.

Old-school Sammy Morris happy with No. 23

December, 18, 2011
IRVING, Texas -- Sammy Morris wore No. 34 with New England. He wore No. 31 in Miami and also had No. 33 for a couple of years in Buffalo.

He chose No. 23 with the Cowboys because it matched his birthday: March 23, 1977.

But he had No. 33 in his hands for a quick spell.

“I actually had that number for about 10 seconds and then I was thinking, ‘Nah, I’m an old-school football fan and I loved Tony Dorsett,'” Morris said. “I’ve met him a couple of times and his son. I just feel like that’s hallowed ground, so I just got right back in 23.”

Morris thought Dorsett’s number would be retired, but the Cowboys have not retired any numbers. They just don’t hand out Roger Staubach’s No. 12 and make sure Bob Lilly’s No. 74 is not worn in the regular season.
DeMarco Murray moved through the Cowboys’ locker room on crutches, a protective boot on his fractured right ankle and the hood from his sweatshirt over his head. He avoided eye contact with anybody en route the passenger seat of his sports car, which was parked right outside the locker room.

After a night to come to grips with his season-ending injury, Murray made his first public comments via Twitter.

“God is too good! Minor setback but guarantee I'll be back a better football player! Love my teammates and #cowboynation! Thanks for support!!” Murray tweeted.

Murray’s season ended with 897 yards on 164 carries. Tony Dorsett, Calvin Hill and Emmitt Smith are the only Cowboys to rush for more yards as rookies.

This is the third time in five years that an injury has prematurely ended Murray’s season. He dislocated his kneecap as a freshman at Oklahoma in 2007 and ruptured his hamstring tendon in 2008, leading to concerns about his durability that caused him to drop to the third round in the draft.

The DeMarco Murray Effect

November, 7, 2011
IRVING, Texas -- DeMarco Murray has done something Hall of Famers Emmitt Smith and Tony Dorsett never did.

Mike Golic from Mike and Mike joins Coop and Nate to discuss the Cowboys victory, Dez Bryant, and other news around the NFL.

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Murray has the best three-game rushing totals in team history with 466 yards, thanks to his 139-yard effort Sunday vs. Seattle. Smith’s best three-game run was 446 yards in 1993. Dorsett never topped 433 yards in the same amount of games.

Julius Jones had 436 yards on a three-game run in 2004, including a 198-yard effort against Seattle.

Murray has helped changed the dynamic of the Cowboys’ offense.

“Oh, man, he gives us confidence that if we make our blocks he’s going to hit it hard and going to get in the end zone,” guard Montrae Holland said. “As an O-lineman it makes you more eager to block.”

That Murray has been this good is a revelation after missing almost all of training camp with a hamstring injury.

“He runs really, really hard,” tight end Jason Witten said. “Obviously we have seen those big runs he’s had, but he turns two- or three-yard gains into nice 10-yard gains. He takes some big hits and he gets up. And he’s done a great job of protection. He did a great job in the passing game, he had huge catches yesterday. We all saw where he took a swing pass and turned it into a 12-yard gain. He’s played great. And he comes in every day and works his butt off. He had the big game a couple of weeks ago against St. Louis, and then Wednesday he’s out there playing scout team. It’s like, ‘I don’t think you need to be the scout team back any more, DeMarco. I love the mentality that you have, but get some rest. We need you over here.’ But I think that mentality pays off for him. He’s been great. He’s been a dynamic player for us. Our offense and really our team has been better and had success because of the way he plays.

DeMarco Murray's run second longest

October, 23, 2011
ARLINGTON, Texas -- DeMarco Murray’s introduction to Sunday’s game against St. Louis could not have been much better. The rookie running back had the second-longest run in team history with a 91-yard touchdown in the first quarter on the third play from scrimmage.

On first-and-19 from the Dallas 9, Murray took a delay handoff from Tony Romo up the middle and slithered to his right behind blocks from fullback Tony Fiammetta and tight end Jason Witten before turning around safety Quintin Mikell to go untouched to the end zone.

Only Tony Dorsett’s 99-yard touchdown run at Minnesota on Jan. 3, 1983 is longer in team history. Dorsett (Dec. 4, 1977 vs. Philadelphia) and Herschel Walker (Dec. 14, 1986 vs. Philadelphia) had the second-longest runs of 84 yards for touchdowns.

Murray’s touchdown run is also the longest first career touchdown run by an NFL running back since the 1970 merger.

It was the 11th longest play by a rookie in team history, counting punt returns, kickoff returns and interception returns.