DeMarco Murray deals with reality

IRVING, Texas -- In his first two seasons as a professional, Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray failed to play a full season due to injury.

Last week, Murray suffered a sprained left knee against the Washington Redskins, raising concerns about his availability for Sunday's game at Philadelphia. While Murray said he's preparing to play against the Eagles, the concerns the Cowboys had about his durability are becoming stronger by the day.

This past spring, the Cowboys drafted running back Joseph Randle in the fifth round with the hope he would take over should Murray get hurt again. That time has come for Randle, who also is preparing to play against the Eagles on Sunday.

Randle would be the starter, at least for the Eagles game, if Murray sits. Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said the team is being conservative regarding Murray's injury because they don't want to lose him for an extended period of time. The team likes what Murray has done in the early part of the season. At one point, Murray was the third-leading rusher in the NFL. (He's now eighth, with 428 rushing yards.)

You couldn't help but notice how Murray gave a stern look at a few reporters asking about his health issues being a long-term concern.

"It’s part of the game," Murray said. "It’s a physical game. Everybody comes across with a little something there and there, a little ding. It happens."

In his career, Murray has missed time for a sprained foot and a fractured ankle, and now maybe for a sprained knee. It's the life of a running back in the NFL these days. Yes, the game is changing -- faster offenses and pass-crazy offensive coordinators -- but all teams need a running back to control the pace of the game.

Murray is one of those players, and his durability issues pushed the Cowboys to use a draft pick on Randle.

"It makes me feel fine," he said when asked about Randle. "The more the merrier in the backfield. I've always had some backups, I've always had a team in the backfield, it's fine for me. No worries, I'm confident in myself."

Murray has always been a pleasant fellow, but he seemed irked earlier in the season when the Cowboys didn't run the ball in the fourth quarter of a close loss to Kansas City. Murray became the focal point of what was wrong with a run game that produced just 124 rushing yards after two games. In Week 3, the run game picked up 193 yards, 175 by Murray, in a victory over St. Louis.

The next week, despite a loss to San Diego, Murray rushed for 70 yards and was productive, averaging 5 yards per carry. In the contest with Denver, the Cowboys were in a shootout with Peyton Manning and Murray rushed for 43 yards on 12 carries.

Then came Sunday's game, in which Murray suffered his injury on his seventh carry of the game and didn't return.

He now rehabs while his replacement gets ready to take over.

"He needs to be himself," Murray said. "He needs to be Randle. He’s a great player, a good player. He’s still learning weekly, I’m sure he’ll do just fine."