OXNARD, Calif. – In the wake of Ezekiel Elliott's six-game NFL suspension, pending appeal, Alfred Morris has two obligations as a Cowboys teammate:
One is to support Elliott. The other is to prepare himself to contribute in Elliott's absence.
"It sucks when you lose a fellow competitor, when you lose a brother and you spend enough time together you're going to form a relationship," Morris said Wednesday. "We addressed the elephant in the room, it is what it is, but we're going to support him."
Elliott's suspension means opportunity for Morris, a five-year veteran and former 1,000-yard rusher with the Washington Redskins.
He signed with the Cowboys in March 2016 to compete with Darren McFadden for starting running back duties. A month later, the Cowboys drafted Elliott with the fourth overall pick.
Elliott made the All-Pro team as a rookie last season. Morris got 69 carries, 133 fewer than his previous career low. When McFadden returned from an elbow injury in December, he moved past Morris to the No. 2 spot on the depth chart.
Morris could have felt sorry for himself this offseason. Instead he rededicated himself.
He said he changed his diet and focused on becoming faster and more explosive. He now feels more comfortable with the offense in his second season in Dallas.
With Elliott held out for rest, McFadden started last Saturday's preseason game against the Rams and Morris worked with the second-team offense. But head coach Jason Garrett has praised Morris' work in training camp while competing with McFadden, Rod Smith and Ronnie Hillman for a spot behind Elliott.
"He works very hard each and every day both on and off the field to get himself to where he can play his best," Garrett said. "He's got a great spirit about him, a great spirit in life and a great spirit about the opportunity to play football here with us."[embeddedad0]
Morris says his approach doesn't change now that Elliott is facing an extended absence in the regular season.
"We're always fighting for a job. That's just the nature of the business that we're in," Morris said. "That's out of my control. The only thing I can control is me, my attitude and how I approach each and every day. At the end of the day, they're going to make the decision based on whatever you put on film, I guess.
"My job is to go out there and make it hard for them to make that decision. That's my goal. I can't focus on if I'll be here. I can't focus on what slot I'll be in if I'll be here. That's out of my control. I control me, my actions, my attitudes and I approach every day like it's my last opportunity."