IRVING, Texas – DeMarco Murray's expanded workload might be here to stay.
Murray's on pace for a career-high 396 carries this year, as the Cowboys keep feeding the NFL's leading running back who just earned NFC Player of the Month honors for his breakout September.
As play-caller Scott Linehan said, it's tough for the coaches to take Murray off the field when he's rolling the way he is.
"I think it's too early to be thinking about pitch counts and stuff like that," Linehan said. "There may be days where we're mindful more of his carries, but he's never really slowed down at this point. We're full speed ahead at this point, but we'll probably be addressing that as the year goes on. Like I said, it's hard to do right now."
Linehan said there may be days where the other backs can help take the load off Murray, particularly because he's happy with what Lance Dunbar and Joseph Randle have contributed in their limited roles. But it's tough to limit the lead back.
That's just fine with Murray, who said he feels he's capable of rushing 400 times this year if needed.
"I've always been one to take care of my body, doing different things, making sure I'm healthy," Murray said. "Some things are out of your control, but just try to do some preliminary things, make sure your body is fresh, make sure you're ready to come to work every day and work hard. I've always done that since I was in college, so I'll continue to do certain things."
One of the reasons Linehan believes Murray is capable of bouncing back week after week is because of how Murray takes care of himself.
"To be able to see him now, his professional habits, how he goes about getting himself and his body right each week and how hard he works in practice, there's a reason why he plays like he does," Linehan said. "He doesn't miss snaps, he doesn't miss plays in practice. He takes every play that you give him. He's mad when you take him out, and that's his mindset. That's the reason why he's playing the way he's playing, in my opinion."
In just four games, Murray's already got more than half as many carries as he had in 2011 and 2012. If he gets just 10 carries this weekend against Houston, he'll have more than half as many carries as he got last year.
Even though he hasn't played in a full 16-game season to this point in his fourth NFL season, he still feels like his body is prepared for the enhanced workload. Since his college days, Murray's gotten used to the ice tub, yoga and mixed martial arts to get himself ready. He said his body feels good, and he's confident he takes good enough care of his body to take the beating.
"I'm not going to go into detail, but I do quite a bit," Murray said. "I've just worked hard. Just doing what I've been doing since I've been here, same training regimen. Different things obviously you try to do. But for the most part, I stick to my routine."
That routine, along with his talent and the people blocking for him, has him running at a record pace. Murray's on pace for 2,136 rushing yards in 2014, and he gives a lot of credit for his NFC Player of the Month honors to everyone blocking in front of him and around him.
Murray said that honor is for the whole team, and everyone is buying into what Linehan wants to do.
"We're all jelling together," Murray said. "There's some guys that might not be getting the same touches that they're used to getting, and it's OK with them because we're winning. We're playing together as an offense. I think we're having fun out there."
Linehan said it was a major goal for the team to get the offense to buy in to the running game and make it a priority.
"Not just say it is, but go out and do it," LInehan said. "We had to go out and prove it. So far we're doing well, but we can't lose sight of the fact that each week is going to be a new week. You've got to prove yourself every week."
[embedded_ad] So far, the running game has proven itself in an obvious way. Murray's got 18 more carries and 193 more rushing yards than any player in the league. His 5.4-yard rushing average is the highest among the top 15 rushers in the league.
"He's incredible," said center Travis Frederick. "I've said this from the beginning – he's really a team running back, in the fact that he does the things that help the team. Whether it's stretching the ball a little bit more, running up the A-gap, setting our blocks, he does those things right. And then he goes and makes tremendous plays. To have him on our team, it's really an honor to be playing with him."
Frederick also gave credit to the tight ends and the wide receivers on the outside for helping both Murray and the offensive line look better. But Frederick also credits Murray's development, getting quicker, seeing the hole, hitting the hole and generally making the offensive line look better.
Murray thanks everyone around him for his success, but it's the offensive linemen he's rewarding most. Asked if he's taking care of the tight ends and wide receivers as well, Murray joked that he would if he was making Tony Romo's money.
"I appreciate the other guys," Murray said, "but I'm concentrating on the big fellas right now."