FRISCO, Texas – When the Cowboys arrived in Oxnard, Calif. for the first day of training camp back in July, All-Pro guard Zack Martin said he hoped "toughness" was the main trait when asked about the identity of the team.
On Thursday, Martin went a step further, identifying Ezekiel Elliott as the poster-boy to that preferred mantra.
"When I think of Zeke, I think of the identity of our football team, kind of wrapped into a player," Martin said. "Just, his willingness to do anything asked of him, his physical style of play ... he brings all of that to our football team. It rubs off on guys."
Martin and the rest of the offensive line should be able to block for Zeke this weekend as the Elliott is expected back against the Vikings after missing two games.
"I'm definitely very optimistic about this week," Elliott said. "Barring any setbacks the next couple days, I think I feel good. I've felt as good as I've felt since the injury this early in the week. I think I'm in a good spot."
And while his replacement – fourth-year back Tony Pollard – has been rather impressive with a pair of 100+ yard rushing games, the thought of having the 1-2 punch is definitely desirable."I think (the combo) gives us something," Martin said. "When you get smacked in the mouth a few times by 21, you're going to breaking down in the hold to make a tackle. And then TP puts his foot in the ground and gets it going. So, they're a great duo."
Elliott initially suffered the knee injury on Oct. 23 against the Lions and has since missed the Bears game, followed by the bye week, and then sat out the Packers game despite being limited in practice all week.
Assuming he plays this Sunday in Minnesota, Zeke said he would wear a protective brace.
In the seven games he's played, Zeke has 443 yards on 109 attempts for a 4.1 yard average and four touchdowns. In nine games for Pollard, he's rushed for 621 yards on 103 attempts for a 6.0 yard average with six touchdowns.
An even bigger difference in stats occurs in the passing game, where Zeke has caught just six passes for 32 yards and Pollard has 15 receptions for 134 yards.
But it sounds like they will be out there together again on Sunday, trying to get back in the win column.
And according to Martin, maybe getting their identity back as well.