DeMarco Murray injury a Cowboys setback

The news on Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray is that an MRI revealed a foot sprain. This is relatively good news, as it does not appear to be a season-ending injury, but it sounds as though the Cowboys are not expecting Murray to play for them next week against the Panthers, and he could be out longer.

They can run on the Panthers without Murray, of course, as the Giants did with Andre Brown when Ahmad Bradshaw was hurt. The Panthers allow 127 rush yards per game, and the combination of Felix Jones, Phillip Tanner and Lance Dunbar should be able to gain yards on the ground, especially if the Cowboys' line blocks as well as it did Sunday in Baltimore.

But there's a larger point here, as I believe there is and must be when discussing this year's Cowboys, and it's that Murray is hurt again. He is one of their long-range building blocks, and assuming he sits out Sunday he'll have missed games in each of his first two seasons with foot injuries. That they are unrelated is of little concern. Murray's value to the Cowboys is as a tough, durable running back who can handle a bell-cow workload. If he cannot prove himself to be that, they may have to adjust their plan and look for alternatives in the coming seasons.

In the short term, Murray's injury could make it difficult for the Cowboys' run game to build on the gains it made in Baltimore. But looking beyond the coming weeks, the Cowboys have to wonder just how much they'll be able to count on him if it's going to be a struggle to keep him healthy.