IRVING, Texas --Rookie running back Phillip Tanner has admittedly been an "early bird" ever since he began taking his sister to school and his mom to work as a high school freshman growing up in Dallas.
He's usually among the first players in the Valley Ranch complex for morning meetings, arriving before 7 a.m. but once at 3:30 a.m.
"One time I got here at 6:45, which is still early, and Bruce (Carter) was like, 'You're late!" Tanner recalled.
That type of commitment got Tanner to this point -- active for four of the Cowboys' first six games and possibly the second running back on the depth chart Sunday night against Philadelphia if Tashard Choice can't play with shoulder/hamstring injuries.
"He's a guy who is very diligent. He works very hard," head coach Jason Garrett said. "It's very important to him and the stage has not been too big for him so far. That is a real positive sign for a young guy."
Tanner got his first career carries last week against the Rams, gaining 34 yards and a touchdown on six touches. As a backup, he understands he won't be the primary option like his days at Middle Tennessee St. But he can't press when he's in there.
"You can't let that mess with your mind at practice," Tanner said. "You have to go to practice every day as if you're the starter. You have to take every rep as if you're going to take every rep in the game and work hard, finish all your runs."
And keep getting to work early.