PHOENIX– DeMarco Murray will take the field Sunday night at the Pro Bowl with somewhat familiar surroundings. Plays will get sent in from the Cowboys' coaching staff. He'll take a handoff from Tony Romo and he'll run behind an offensive line that features three starters and a tight end.
And while he'll likely be wearing some exotic uniform filled with bright-orange colors, Murray will certainly have his normal helmet, with that Blue Star on each side.
The big question however, is will this be the last time Murray dons the Cowboys' trademark logo.
"I hope not," Murray said rather emphatically while taking some time off from a Pro Bowl charity event this week. "Right now, I'm really trying not to think about all that. Not worrying about money or playing with another team. But it's hard to fathom (not returning to Dallas next year).
Murray, an unrestricted free agent this spring, said he'd prefer to get a new deal long before the start of free agency in Dallas to remain with the Cowboys.
"Of course … I want to be back next year with the Cowboys. Those guys have become my family." Murray said. "After being here for four years and how hard you work and the friendships … it's really more like a family within the whole organization with the Jones family and Garrett and Romo, Witten and Dez … really all those guys. You don't want to think about it, but you have to understand the business side of it. Hopefully it's not my last time wearing the star."
After leading the NFL in rushing last season with 1,835 yards, a Cowboys franchise record, Murray knows a big payday is definitely on the horizon. He also knows he's not the only free agent the Cowboys have to pay with several other unrestricted free agents also needs new deals, including Dez Bryant.
"We've got a really good thing going right now," Murray said. "You can see where this team is going. I was fortunate to be a part of it through the good times and bad. I know what this team is capable of and (Jason) Garrett is a hell of a coach," Murray said. "He's taught me so much. I have tremendous amount of respect for him. Witten – all those guys. To see what we've been able to build with this team over four years, it's only going to get better."
And while the start of free agency isn't too far away, Murray said he'd like to be a little more removed from the season before all of his attention goes in that direction.
"To be honest, I haven't thought much about it," Murray said of landing a new deal. "I haven't sat down and talked with my agent and thought about a number or anything. It's only been a week or so. Everything is still fresh for me how the season ended. I haven't been able to move on from it yet. When the time comes, I'll sit down with my family and with my agent to see what we can get accomplished. Like I said, I hope it works out for me to stay."
In the meantime, Murray said he is going to soak in the downtime that comes with being at the Pro Bowl. Last year, he was a late addition as an injury replacement for the game in Hawaii, although he did score the game-winning touchdown. This year, Murray was not only voted in by his fans and peers, but made a captain for Michael Irvin's team.
More importantly than all of that, the recently-engaged Murray said spending this time with his family and friends has been the best part.
"Yeah it was a lot better this year, being able to be voted in by the fans and players," Murray said. "That was a huge deal for me to get the respect from those guys and the fans and the support. Being back the second time – last year it was a great time in Hawaii. This year has been great, too. I'm just trying to come out here and have fun. I get to spend a lot of time with my family, and it's also great to be here with a lot of my teammates."
Murray knows his family will always be there for him. And if it works out well, he's hoping those Cowboys teammates won't change next year as well.
Nick Eatman is the author of the recently published If These Walls Could Talk: Dallas Cowboys, a collection of stories from the Cowboys' locker room, sideline and press box, with a foreword written by Darren Woodson.