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IRVING, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys starting running back DeMarco Murray wouldn't say whether he was surprised by his first-half benching Saturday night against the Cincinnati Bengals, but does respect the decision.
Murray fumbled on his second possession of the game and was benched in favor of Phillip Tanner. Murray returned to start the second half and finished with 51 yards on 12 carries with a 7-yard touchdown reception on which he eluded three defenders.
"We know how important the ball is," Murray said after Monday's practice. "I think there's different approaches to go about it, so they chose to go about it that way. And I respect that. Just got to take care of the ball. At the end of the day, that's the whole message."
Murray said he didn't feel the need to speak with Cowboys coach Jason Garrett about the benching. But plenty of thoughts went through his mind while he stood on the sideline.
"Let it marinate a little bit," he said. "It was a little frustrating, I got to be honest. But I'm just trying to make plays. I'm a competitor.
"I wasn't mad at anyone, I wasn't pouting on the sidelines, I wasn't anything. I was waiting for my opportunity to get back in the game. Once my number was called, I was ready to play."
Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones praised Murray after the game, calling him a "man" for how he handled the situation by playing hard. Murray said he didn't try to re-enter the game after he was benched and just waited for further instruction from the coaches.
"As a competitor, you're never happy to not be in the game," Murray said. "Like I said, he's a smart coach, great coach, I'm always going to be behind him, and whatever is best for the team, I'm all for it."
The Cowboys committed six turnovers in the previous week's preseason game at Arizona, and Garrett, along with the rest of the coaching staff, stressed ball security all week in practice. So when Murray fumbled the ball early in the game, it sent things in motion for a benching.
"[The fumble] can't happen," Garrett said. "I don't care who you are; we can't have it.
"DeMarco's a man. He understands team. He understands what his role is on this football team. We just felt that was the right thing to do, and he responded exactly how we thought he would respond, came back and played really hard and really well and took care of the rock."