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Sunday, May 13, 2007
Updated: May 15, 10:46 AM ET
Cowboys' Jones to rely on instincts in 2007

Associated Press

IRVING, Texas -- Julius Jones felt he was running "like a robot" at times last season, controlled by what his coach told him to do and how the Dallas Cowboys used him.

"I was being told a little bit where to run and not really being able to use my instincts," Jones said Sunday. "Maybe I listened to coach [Bill] Parcells a little too much and was kind of running like a robot. ... I was being coached and just listening to my coach."

Even though he became the first Cowboys running back since Emmitt Smith in 2001 to have a 1,000-yard season, Jones became unsure of his role. Though he started every game, he rarely played on third down or in goal-line situations, then averaged only 11 carries the final five games.

"It was confusing," he said. "They tried to tell me what my role was, and it didn't really show on the field. I didn't know, but this year is a brand new start and I look forward to it."

That's because Parcells is no longer around.

Parcells, the demanding coach who bypassed Steven Jackson in 2004 and later took Jones in the same draft, retired after last season and was replaced by Wade Phillips.

"Everything is brand new. Plays are new, perception is new. Just a new start for everybody," Jones said. "The coaches, I like the way they operate. Things are a little bit more laid back. ... Playing in a system like that, where you have freedom and you like the guy you're playing for, you're going to win a lot more games."

Jones had been working out with a personal trainer in Arizona before coming to the three-day minicamp that wraps up Monday. "No distractions out there, nothing but me and working out," he said.

Running Back
Dallas Cowboys

Profile
2006 SEASON STATISTICS
Rush Yds TD Rec Yds TD
267 1084 4 9 142 0

Being away from Texas also helped Jones, who is going into the final year of his contract, avoid hearing talk about the possibility of the Cowboys trading him. Owner Jerry Jones has insisted such conversations were prompted by other teams inquiring about the running back and not the Cowboys trying to move him.

Still, Julius Jones got fewer chances to carry the ball and score last season when Marion Barber III excelled on third downs and near the goal line. Barber scored 16 touchdowns -- 14 rushing and two receiving.

The only TD Jones had in the last nine games was a career-long 77-yard run on the second offensive snap against New Orleans in a 42-17 home loss.

Phillips expects Jones to play a significant part in the Cowboys' offense this season.

"He's been productive here. I think he'll continue to be," Phillips said. "He's a good screen runner, good draw runner, stretch outside runner that can cut. We're going to get him the ball as much as we can."

When it was Dallas' turn to pick 22nd overall in 2004, no running backs had been drafted. Instead of filling one of their most pressing needs with that first-round pick, the Cowboys traded down and passed on Jackson, one of the four runners taken before they finally got their first pick, taking Jones 43rd overall out of Notre Dame.

Jackson last season had 2,334 total yards (1,528 rushing and 806 receiving) with 16 TDs for the St. Louis Rams. Jones had 1,226 total yards (1,084 rushing and 142 receiving) with four rushing TDs.

Jones has increased his carries and rushing totals in each of his three seasons. But he missed half of his rookie season with bruised ribs and a broken shoulder, then was forced to miss three more games because of injuries in 2005, when Barber -- then a rookie -- got his first extended action.

But with Parcells gone, Jones has a new businesslike approach to the game.

"I have a lot to prove. I want to stay here and be a Cowboy, so I've got to prove that this year," Jones said. "I need to prove that I can be the back that they want. They passed up a lot of good guys to get me, and I want to prove that I was the right choice."

Extra points
Terrell Owens was catching passes again in practice -- and again didn't talk to reporters Sunday. T.O. said he "might" talk in June. That is when the Cowboys have their next minicamp, and after he is due a $3 million roster bonus. ... OL Leonard Davis, who signed a seven-year free agent deal for nearly $50 million, missed practice Sunday because his wife had surgery.