- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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IRVING, Texas – When it comes to running backs delivering a blow to defenders, there can be too much of a good thing.
Former Cowboys tailback Marion Barber is evidence of that. The bruising running style made “The Barbarian” an effective back, but Barber didn’t last long in part due to the pounding he took.
DeMarco Murray is a faster, more explosive back than Barber, but he has a similar penchant for seeking contact at the end of runs. The Cowboys love the tone Murray sets by running angry, as long as he picks his spots to play it safe.
“You just have to balance that,” coach Jason Garrett said. “We want guys who are physical, but at the same time we don’t want them to be stupid looking for extra contact when they don’t need to. A lot of great backs over the years have understood what that balance is. They don’t run out of bounds when they don’t need to.
“There is a point in finishing a run the right way, sending a message, but at the same time, you want to make sure you take care of yourself and the football and not do that in an unnecessary way. You talk about it that way, but you certainly let them trust their feel and their instincts for the game.”
Murray was physical to a fault in an outstanding season-opening performance, when he rushed for 131 yards on 20 carries in the win over the Giants.
The only time Murray avoided contact at the end of a run was when he slid to the ground on the Cowboys’ final drive to make sure the clock kept ticking. Murray admits he erred by lowering his shoulder at the end of his spectacular 48-yard run, when he could have probably scored if he kept sprinting up the sideline.
Murray understands the importance of protecting his body, but if he thinks he can make a play, he’s going to try to make it happen.
“You’ve just got to have a feel for it,” Murray said. “There’s times where you’ve got to be smart and get out of bounds. If you’re by the sideline and there’s five defenders there, you’ve definitely got to get out. But if you feel like you can create something and make guys miss and get out of there, it’s just more of a feel.”
More often than not, Murray wants to make sure opposing defenders feel some pain.