FRISCO, Texas – If you're looking for a little extra kindling to fuel the 113th chapter of the storied Cowboys-Redskins rivalry, Alfred Morris' return to Washington to face his former team isn't it.
"To me, it's just another game," the Cowboys' veteran running back said Wednesday after practice.
Even after four years as the Redskins' featured back?
"At the end of the day it's a business," he said. "Everything happens for a reason, so I'm here. That's just how I feel. I can't say how I actually feel until I get out there on the field."
Morris admits he might feel a little extra motivation when he steps onto FedExField for Sunday's Week 2 matchup. But his focus now is helping the Cowboys (0-1), who signed him to a two-year deal in late March after the Redskins (0-1) allowed him to test the free agent market.
Initially, Morris was expected to compete for carries with last year's leading rusher Darren McFadden. McFadden is starting the season on the Reserve/Non-Football Injury list, but the new starter in Dallas is fourth overall pick Ezekiel Elliott, drafted five weeks after Morris signed with Dallas.
The crowded depth chart never frustrated Morris. He fit seamlessly into the offensive scheme in training camp and preseason, and in last Sunday's season opener against the New York Giants he averaged 5.0 yards on only seven carries. Elliott found less running room in his debut, producing 51 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries.
Morris started all 16 games in each of his four seasons with the Redskins. In eight games against the Cowboys he rushed for 710 yards and 7 touchdowns.
He never had fewer than eight carries in his first three seasons, though his workload dropped in 2015 when he began splitting time with new Redskins starter Matt Jones and totaled career-lows in rushing yards (751) and touchdowns (1).
"Whether I have one carry or I have 100 carries, it really doesn't matter," Morris said. "I'm just going to make the most of what I do get. I feel like I got good work (last Sunday), better than what some backups get. That's OK with me. The only thing that was different for me was having to stay warm on the sideline."
Morris is aware he's now standing on the other side of a simmering rivalry. He knows his responses this week might sound cliché. He promises that's not his intent – "it's me being me," he says.
The Cowboys shouldn't be surprised that he's treating this week as a business trip. They've been pleased not only with his production, but his approach to the job since March.
"He's one of those guys that has kind of a quiet, mild-mannered personality off the field, but when the game starts, he's a pretty damn good football player," head coach Jason Garrett said. "I think he's a really good example. He goes about it the right way. He's professional in everything that he does. He's taken advantage of the different opportunities we've given him. He doesn't get a lot of chances. He stays ready, so when he does get his chances he can take advantage of them."
He's also been a sounding board for Elliott, who carries high expectations in his first NFL season.
"I just appreciate the guy he is. He's a great guy," Elliott said. "He's always there. He's always in my ear, he's always making sure I'm doing the right thing. He's always just looking to help me become a better player."
Morris said overall he had "a very good experience" in Washington and built good relationships throughout the Redskins organization. He admits when he earned a starting job as a sixth-round pick in 2012, he hoped to spend his entire career with the Redskins, but "sometimes the cookie crumbles a little different than what we plan to and they brought me here. I'm here and I'm enjoying it."
Two weeks into his first season with the Cowboys, he'll head back where his career started. Just in a different uniform.
"They had a different plan and I wasn't a part of that, and that's OK with me," he said. "I moved on, but I still have an opportunity to keep my dream alive and playing this game as long as I can. It happened to be with a rival team with a different jersey, but at the same time it's still football."