Owner: Felix Jones to back up Murray

Updated: November 16, 2011, 11:21 PM ET
By Tim MacMahon | ESPNDallas.com

The Dallas Cowboys expect Felix Jones to return Sunday after a four-game absence, but not as the team's primary running back.

Owner/general manager Jerry Jones indicated during a radio appearance Tuesday that rookie DeMarco Murray, who has been a dominant force while Felix Jones was sidelined with a high ankle sprain, would continue to get the bulk of the carries.

"One thing that comes to my mind is that Murray looks like the more he carries, the more effective he gets," Jerry Jones said on KRLD-FM. "You think of that theoretically about a workhorse running back, that they get better as the game goes along.

"On the other hand, Felix -- and this is not negative in any way -- but Felix has always been a guy that looks like the best way for him to be his best is to inject him in spots. So we may have a guy here in Murray and we may have a guy here in Felix who can step in there 12, 13 times a ballgame and really have a chance to break it."

Murray, a third-round draft pick, has rushed for 601 yards in Felix Jones' absence, setting a franchise record for a four-game span while the Cowboys went 3-1. He has three 100-yard games, including a 253-yard breakout performance against the St. Louis Rams that broke Emmitt Smith's franchise record.

"What [Murray's] done is very good," said Felix Jones, who was handing out early Thanksgiving Day meals to needy folks at The Salvation Army's Carr P. Collins Social Services Center in Dallas on Tuesday. "I've just got to make sure I'm healthy when I get out there. He's doing a great job. He's handled the position very well."

By comparison, Jones rushed for 253 yards on 63 carries during the Cowboys' 2-3 start. Jones, a first-round pick in 2008, has two 100-yard rushing games in his career.

Jones, however, said Tuesday that he's not worried about his role.

"Man, they're really just worrying about me getting back on the field first," Jones said. "Once that happens, we'll start talking about what's going on on the field. Right now, I'm just worried about my health and getting out on the field."

Jones said the ankle "is getting to the point where I felt at the beginning of the season. That's 100 percent. I'm getting there."

The Cowboys drafted Jones, who played in Darren McFadden's shadow at Arkansas, to be a change-of-pace back. They picked him instead of Rashard Mendenhall because they believed Jones' style and explosiveness made him a better complement to Marion Barber, whom the Cowboys had signed to a seven-year, $45 million extension weeks before that draft.

Jones flourished in the role, rushing for 951 yards on 146 carries (6.5 per carry) during his injury-plagued first and second seasons. He hasn't been nearly as explosive since becoming the Cowboys' lead back, a shift that occurred last season because of the ineffectiveness of Barber, who was released this summer.

It makes sense to use Jones in a complementary role with Murray continuing to get the bulk of the work, although coach Jason Garrett has been tight-lipped about how he intends to use his backs, unlike his much more forthcoming boss.

"We just want to get (Jones) back into action," Garrett said Monday. "He's been a really good football player for us the past few years, a dynamic player both in the run game and the pass games. We just want to get him some touches."

Tim MacMahon covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com. Todd Archer of ESPNDallas.com contributed to this report.

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