PHOENIX – DeMarco Murray rushed for more yards this past season than anyone in Cowboys history.
He rushed for more yards than any other NFL player in 2014. He was First-Team All-Pro and not only a Pro Bowler, but one of the four captains for the game.
Yet, he doesn't have a contract and there's a chance he won't have one before the start of free agency in March.
If that happens, it'll not only mean the Cowboys and Murray couldn't come to an agreement, but ultimately that the team also feels confident they could replace Murray's production of 1,845 rushing yards.
Now, there's a perception amongst Cowboys fans, media and maybe even some within the organization that any quality running back could do what Murray did, mainly because of the Cowboys' talented offensive line that includes three Pro Bowlers.
One of them, rookie Zack Martin, doesn't agree.
"Yeah, at times we put him on green grass, but I'd like to see his yards after contact," Martin said of Murray. "He was unbelievable this year. Some of the cuts he makes … no one ever tells him where to run because he's always finding the open seam and breaking tackles. I think that's completely false. I would love to have him back, and we'll see what happens."
Witten called it "silly" to assume that just anyone could replace Murray.
"We've got good running backs," Witten said. "Joe Randle took advantage of every opportunity he got. I think (Lance) Dunbar has got a great future ahead of him. Obviously the O-line, but I think it would be silly to not give him the credit for what he did. It's not easy to do that. I think Coach (Jason) Garrett said it a few weeks back that he created a mindset for our team and that's not easy to do. He deserves a lot of that credit, DeMarco does, and so that's why you want a guy like that back because he stands for everything you want in your football team."
Martin called it false. Witten said it was silly. So what about Murray, himself?
"I think it's funny when people say that," Murray said this week at the Pro Bowl. "Our offensive line is good. And I consider myself good as well. It's funny, every running back … LaDainian (Tomlinson) rushed for all those yards, and he had a good line. Adrian (Peterson) rushed for a lot of yards and he had a good line. You have to have good players around you. Emmitt Smith had a good line.
"It's funny when people say that. … I'm the first one to say (the offensive line) deserves all the credit in the world. A lot of the times I get some credit, but I'm glad they get some, too. I'm not worried about it. I'm not insecure in my talents and what I bring to the team. I don't mind it. I just continue to work hard to help us win."
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.