Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray knows he can’t win the battle of perception.
He joined the Cowboys as a third-round pick in 2011 with a reputation of being injury prone in college at Oklahoma, despite owning the school records for points, touchdowns and all-purpose yards.
He then missed nine games in his two NFL seasons combined, prompting the Cowboys to draft Oklahoma State star Joseph Randle in the fifth round this year to help shoulder the load going forward.
Now Murray is sidelined for the start of organized team activities with a tweaked hamstring — he missed all of last week and Tuesday but plans to be back at work on Wednesday.
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While he said he doesn’t worry about the injury-prone label, he does plan on changing the perception in 2013 by doing something he has never done before: play all 16 games.
“That’s something I can’t control,” Murray said of the critics. “I can’t control if anything happens. All I can do is go out there, play hard, play fast, play physical. Once I’m out there, I don’t think there’s any question about anything.
“I am going to play all 16 [games] this year, and I’m excited. It’s going to be a great year for us.”
If Murray plays all 16 games, it should be a great year for the Cowboys.
One thing that has been proven over his first two years is that the Cowboys are better when Murray is in the lineup and running well. He has 218 carries for 1,100 in 2011 and 2012 combined compared with 107 carries for 466 yards in losses.
His importance is not lost on the Cowboys, who support the decision by Murray and the trainers to take it slow during OTA workouts so he can be ready to live up to his promise of a full season on the field.
“DeMarco, he’s going to be good,” receiver Dez Bryant said. “The thing about it is, we’re in OTAs, and we don’t want to get him out there when he’s not ready and something comes up. We need him throughout the whole year. Not only for DeMarco but for every player, we don’t want to rush anybody. He’s a great player and he’s probably one of the biggest pieces to this puzzle. He’s doing fine.”
Murray’s absence in OTAs is seemingly more of an issue because Randle is also sidelined because of wrist surgery, leaving the team without its top two backs.
But as coach Jason Garrett points out, Murray’s absence is more precautionary and about making sure he does the right things to ensure he stays on the field in 2013.
After last season when the Cowboys rushed the fewest times and for the fewest yards over 16 games in team history, the team needs a big full season from Murray.
“I think it’ll be huge for us,” tight end Jason Witten said. “He’s a guy that plays hard and runs hard. I think we’ll do a better job offensively running the ball. We’ve put a lot of emphasis on that. He’s a dynamic back who can create a lot of things for you.
“He’s got to be healthy and out there. He’s worked hard to get there, and hopefully we’ll get to see him here in these OTAs. A lot of that has been tightened up. We can’t be in those situations that we were last year. It’s just too hard to overcome.”