OXNARD, Calif.– When Alfred Morris got to camp about a week ago, he was asked by reporters more than a few times about his willingness and experience in playing special teams.
It's a legitimate question and one that will likely help him stay on the team, considering the depth this team has at running back.
While Morris was more than accommodating to the media, and even understanding to the line of questioning, the veteran running back hasn't had time to deal with special teams units so far here in California.
Instead, he's been the featured back here for the bulk of training camp.
Obviously that isn't the long-term plan, but with Ezekiel Elliott nursing a hamstring injury, and Darren McFadden (elbow) and Lance Dunbar (knee) still rehabbing pre-camp injuries, Morris is the only experienced back the Cowboys have.
"I've been getting a lot of reps – but that's good," Morris said. "I need those reps because I'm still one of the new guys, too. I have a good understanding of this offense but I'm still learning. So the more reps I get, the better."
Morris is working with the first-team offense, while sixth-round pick Darius Jackson and converted-fullback Rod Smith are getting second- and third-team snaps. While one might assume Morris wants to hog all of the reps, he is more than ready for the likes of Dunbar and McFadden, and of course, Elliott to return soon.
"I don't like that anyone is out because we need everybody," Morris said on Friday. "It sounds a little cliché but it's the truth. When we don't have competition, we're not really getting better. I can get a lot better when we have more guys and splitting reps."
Morris admitted before camp that he wants to improve his all-around skills during camp. While he's rushed for 1,000 yards three times and made two Pro Bowls, Morris knows he can elevate his game as a blocker and pass-catcher.
"It's a perfect opportunity to do some of those things," Morris said. "Right now, I'm doing things I'm normally wouldn't be able to do. It's one thing to get opportunity and it's another to make the most of it. That's really what I'm focused on."
His focus and attention to detail are some of the traits that his new head coach loves about his new running back.
"First of all, he's an unbelievable person. It's impossible not to love this guy," head coach Jason Garrett said. "He's really a special guy. He has been a guy that's been a featured back in this league – a very productive featured back in this league. He has not played a lot of special teams, but he wants to make our football team, he wants to have a role in our football team, so he's willing to do anything he can to do that. We've seen him in a lot of different places on special teams, he's learning, he's embracing it and trying to take full advantage of the opportunity."[embeddedad0]
Whether Morris is starting, working as the No. 2 back, or fighting for a roster spot as the third back who needs to play special teams, he promises to be in good shape, especially at the end of games.
"I pride myself on being in the best shape of my life," he said. "No matter how fast you are, big you are or strong you are, those things don't matter if you're tired. If you can outlast your opponent. It's like the Rope-a-dope effect with Ali. If you can outlast your opponent in the third and fourth quarter when they're bending over, you can outlast them and say 'I've got you now."
But this is the time to get in the best football shape. Only football gets you ready for football."
And during this first week of camp, Morris is getting to play much more football than even he anticipated.