Dallas Cowboys

DeMarco Murray was ‘95 percent sure’ he was returning to Cowboys

Tennessee Titans running back DeMarco Murray (29) runs for a touchdown against the Houston Texans on Oct. 2, 2016, in Houston.
Tennessee Titans running back DeMarco Murray (29) runs for a touchdown against the Houston Texans on Oct. 2, 2016, in Houston. AP

DeMarco Murray’s return to the Dallas Cowboys during the off-season was close. How close?

“It was like 95 percent sure I was going to come back there,” Murray said in a phone interview. “I have a lot of respect for those guys — the Jones family, Will [McClay], coach [Jason] Garrett obviously and [Tony] Romo and Wit [Jason Witten], all those guys. I still consider them a great franchise, and they’re great friends of mine.

“I was very close to going back there. There were some things that fell through and just didn’t happen. I think everything happens for a reason. I’m here, and I’m supposed to be here. They’ve got a pretty good young back over there as well.”

The Cowboys discussed a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles to bring Murray back to town. A source within the team agrees with Murray that a reunion was “close,” but the Eagles preferred to trade Murray to a nondivision foe.

So they sent Murray to Tennessee for a swap of fourth-round picks, the Eagles moving to the second pick from the 15th pick, ending Murray’s tumultuous one-year stay in Philadelphia.

“I was very involved in the talks,” Murray said. “Once the season ended, I talked to [new Eagles coach Doug] Pederson a little bit. My heart just wasn’t there. I felt it was a situation where I needed a fresh start, and I was granted that by [Eagles executive vice president] Howie [Roseman] and [owner] Jeffery [Lurie], who is a great guy. Really good people. I was fortunate to have that relationship with them, so I could tell them, ‘This is where it is. I think it would be best for both sides if I find a new home.’ 

Murray, 28, ran for only 702 yards and six touchdowns on 193 carries last season for the Eagles, who signed him to a five-year, $42 million deal with $21 million guaranteed during the 2015 off-season. Murray wasn’t a match in Chip Kelly’s offense.

Murray joked that nothing about last year “helped” him.

“Obviously, the scheme just wasn’t a fit for me, and I wasn’t a fit for them,” Murray said. “It wasn’t pointing fingers or anything. It just wasn’t a good relationship. Those things happen, and you learn from them. I was fortunate enough to come here and be here and be a Titan now.”

Murray once thrilled Cowboys fans with a league-leading 1,845 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2014 while earning offensive player of the year honors.

He is back in a similar offense in Tennessee, with familiar results. Murray ranks second in the league in rushing with 461 yards and three touchdowns on 93 carries.

“It’s exciting. A lot of hard work,” Murray said. “I knew what I wanted to do this year from a competitive standpoint individually and collectively as a team. I know where this team hasn’t been in the last few years, so my first and only goal is to make sure we get back to the playoffs, and I can lead these guys the right way. Obviously, whatever happens after that, happens.

“I’m not looking to get the rushing title or anything like that. I’ve been there, done that. I spent enough money for the [Cowboys] offensive line. I wouldn’t mind not getting it. All in all, I’m just trying to help these guys get to the playoffs. I think that’s going to be more important than anything.”

When the Cowboys didn’t land Murray, they drafted Ezekiel Elliott with the fourth overall pick. Elliott leads the league with 549 yards and five touchdowns on 109 carries.

He has impressed Murray.

“He’s doing well,” Murray said. “He’s very elusive. He’s very fast. I didn’t know he was that fast, but he turned on the jets. He’s doing well for them. Those guys are blocking well for him. I wish them a good year as well.”

Charean Williams: 817-390-7760, @NFLCharean

My five cents

1 Rookie Halapoulivaati Vaitai was inactive for the Philadelphia Eagles’ first four games, but the former Haltom and TCU standout is a starter now. Right tackle Lane Johnson’s 10-game performance-enhancing drug suspension promoted Vaitai, a fifth-round draft pick. “He’s worked extremely hard,” coach Doug Pederson said. “… Smart kid. Athletic kid. Strong kid.”

2 At 31, Justin Forsett is on the downside of his career, but the former Arlington Grace Prep star expects to help the Detroit Lions’ 23rd-ranked rushing offense. Lions coach Jim Caldwell and Forsett have a brief history together; the running back played three games with the Indianapolis Colts in 2008 when Caldwell was an assistant there.

3 Rookie A’Shawn Robinson, who has six tackles, a sack and two passes defensed in 105 snaps, likely makes his first start for the Lions in place of Haloti Ngata. “He’s growing and developing,” Caldwell said of the former Fort Worth Arlington Heights star. “He’s just coming along and still young. He’s still green, but he’s starting to make some plays for us.”

4 The Minnesota Vikings have 10 players on injured reserve, including their starting quarterback, their Hall of Fame running back and both starting offensive tackles. That’s $33 million of cap space sitting on IR.

5 Washington Redskins receiver DeSean Jackson, questioning why he hasn’t been a bigger part of the offense the past two weeks, took a shot at Kirk Cousins last week. Jackson caught 14 passes for 240 yards and a touchdown the first three weeks, but only four for 40 yards the past two weeks. Jackson is in a contract year.

Who’s hot

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford ranks second in passer rating (109.7) and second in completion percentage (70.4), leading an offense that hasn’t turned the ball over in 304 snaps this season.

Who’s not

New York Giants left tackle Ereck Flowers has four holding penalties and has allowed two sacks. The 2015 first-round pick had four holding penalties and allowed six sacks last season.

Number game

195 Career victories for Tom Brady, including the postseason, trailing only Brett Favre (199) and Peyton Manning (200) for most in NFL history.

2017 NFL Draft

Dane Brugler of CBS Sports and NFLDraftScout.com gives his top-10 senior offensive tackles and top-five draft-eligible underclassmen at the position for the 2017 draft:

Senior offensive tackles

1. Conor McDermott, UCLA (6-8, 310, 5.27)

2. Adam Bisnowaty, Pitt (6-5, 300, 5.16)

3. Dion Dawkins, Temple (6-5, 318, 5.33)

4. Chad Wheeler, USC (6-6, 310, 5.03)

5. Erik Magnuson, Mich (6-5, 296, 5.05)

6. Avery Gennesy, A&M (6-5, 310, 5.08)

7. Julien Davenport, Bucknell (6-6, 308, 5.28)

8. Taylor Moton, W. Mich (6-8, 325, 5.34)

9. Richard Levy, UConn (6-6, 315, 5.27)

10. Javarius Leamon, SC St (6-7, 310, 5.39)

Draft-eligible Underclassmen

1. Cam Robinson, Ala (6-5, 326, 5.28)

2. Mike McGlinchey, ND (6-7, 310, 5.22)

3. Jamarco Jones, Ohio St. (6-5, 310, 5.27)

4. Tyrell Crosby, Ore (6-5, 310, 5.31)

5. Roderick Johnson, FSU (6-6, 323, 5.37)

Blitz

Washington Redskins receiver Josh Doctson, who has a sore left Achilles, has not practiced since being a late scratch before a Week 3 game against the New York Giants. The former TCU star has appeared in only two games and has been hurt on and off since May.

The Cincinnati Bengals had won 10 consecutive games when Andy Dalton had a passer rating of 100 or better until last week. Cincinnati lost 28-14 to the Cowboys despite the former TCU star’s 104.6 passer rating.

Former Texas A&M and Dallas Cowboys tight end Martellus Bennett has 21 receptions for 314 yards and four scores. He leads the New England Patriots in touchdowns and yards, while ranking second in receptions.

Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota stands only 1-7 in home games, compared to 4-5 on the road. His passer rating is 76.7 at home and 100.6 on the road.

Cleveland Browns quarterback Josh McCown has two victories in his past 20 starters over three seasons.

Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, a Highland Park alum, has 22 game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime. He will play his 99th career game today.

Tampa Bay rookie kicker Roberto Aguayo, a second-round pick, has made only 4 of 8 field goals this season and has missed an extra point.

Indianapolis Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri has made 38 field goals in a row. He needs two to tie Gary Anderson for the second-best consecutive field-goal streak in NFL history. With four he would tie former Colts kicker Mike Vanderjagt for the league record.

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has a 27-20 record in six seasons. He had off-season surgeries on his knee, shoulder and thumb.

The Oakland Raiders lead the NFL with 49 penalties and rank third in penalty yardage with 386. They have 11 false starts, tied for second with Washington, one behind the Colts.

The Raiders are giving up 7.0 yards per play, last in the NFL. The worst season mark since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970 was the New Orleans Saints last year at 6.6.

The New York Jets are 31-51-1 all time in games played in the Mountain or Pacific time zones. But the franchise is 2-0 all time at Arizona, its only winning road record against Mountain or Pacific-based teams.

Information from The Sports Xchange was used in this report.

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