IRVING, Texas -- In case you haven't bumped into him this offseason, Dallas Cowboys running back Marion Barber has dropped about 10 pounds and he looks lighter on his feet during organized team activities. And since Barber almost always refuses to speak (or make eye contact) with reporters, we had a good discussion with running backs coach Skip Peete on Tuesday.
In order to prevent injuries that have plagued him the past two seasons, the Cowboys are trying to convince Barber that it's OK to give up on a play from time to time. He's forged his reputation as a back who prefers to punish defenders, but Peete has been showing him video clips of plays where it wasn't worth it to fight for an extra yard.
"We talk to Marion all the time," said Peete following Tuesday's OTA session. "You probably didn't need to take that hit. It would have been smart to get down. You are not going anywhere with one guy on your ankle. Be smart."
"I remember talking to Barry Sanders about why he ran out of bounds when he was close to the sidelines, and he said, 'Why should I take that hit if it was unnecessary?' Peete said. "I feel the same way. You see a guy lower his shoulder to get the extra yard, but why do it if it's not going to benefit the team. It looks good on TV but you chance losing him. What does that do if it's only going to be second-and-7 instead of second-and-8? You didn't need to take that hit. If it's third-and-5, then you drive for the first down. You have to be smart."
It's not often that you hear coaches counseling a player to give up on a play, but in Barber's case, it's probably sound advice.