IRVING, Texas – The speculation surrounding the Cowboys' running back committee was already at a fever pitch, so it's understandable that the addition of Christine Michael would shine the spotlight even brighter.
It's also understandable that, with his team beginning preparations for its season opener, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett was quick to pump the brakes on what Michael's presence means going forward.
"We just wanted to make our team better by adding a guy like that and getting him into our structure and trying to teach him how we want to play and see if he can help our team," Garrett said on Monday. "You try to do that at the running back position, but you really try to do it throughout your team."
It's an easy storyline to latch onto – the last-minute acquisition arriving to take over the starting job. But the fact remains that it's a tall order to ask a player to arrive on Monday and play on Sunday – especially with an established backfield already in place.
Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones confirmed that Monday afternoon when he called Michael a "long shot" to play against the Giants on Sunday night.
"We're very content with the three backs that we have as we head into the Giants game," Jones said. "I think they're all healthy and hitting on all cylinders, so I'm looking forward to seeing how those guys do."
That's not to say there's no role for Michael, though. The Cowboys clearly like something they see in him, as they parted ways with a draft pick to acquire him.
The team traded away a conditional draft pick – likely a seventh-rounder in 2016 – to acquire Michael from the Seahawks on Sunday morning. The Beaumont, Texas, native was the No. 62 overall pick out of Texas A&M in 2013.
"He's a guy that was regarded fairly highly coming out of school and hasn't had a ton of success in Seattle the first couple of years, but he has a lot of traits," Garrett said. "He's a young player who we think has some ability to run the football in this league."
Michael will be on hand when players report on Tuesday, and he should be ready to practice on Wednesday when the game planning for the Giants is implemented on the field. Predictably, Garrett wasn't ready to elaborate on what that means for his pecking order on the depth chart.
"He just needs to get in here and learn what we're doing," he said. "Again, like with all the new guys coming in, their big challenge is to get acclimated to how we do things, our systems of football."
That should serve as a sufficient warning for anyone who thought Michael would arrive and immediately supplant the established duo of Joe Randle and Darren McFadden. Having said that, Garrett acknowledged that there'll be no shortage of opportunities for all four running backs.
"There's opportunity every day in practice," he said. "We're going to evaluate guys in practice, and if they show that they're worthy of being part of our roster on Sundays, we'll give them a chance to do that. If they're worthy of getting some opportunities to carry the football, we'll give them a chance to do that, as well."[embeddedad0]
The trio of McFadden, Randle and Lance Dunbar would seem to have a leg up, based on familiarity alone. But, as has been well-established, the Cowboys still don't have a definitive lead dog in the mold of DeMarco Murray, who led the team in carries during all four of his seasons in Dallas.
With that in mind, Garrett said it'll be up to the backs, including Michael, to determine the pecking order from here on out.
"We're going to bring Michael in here today and hopefully get him up to snuff quickly, and we'll get everybody out on the practice field here in the next couple of days and we'll work this week and get ready for the ballgame," he said. "We won't outline anything before the game. We'll give each of those guys a chance over the course of the week to show us that they're worthy of opportunities."