IRVING, Texas – DeMarco Murray practiced Wednesday, though that's not necessarily an indication of his availability.
Murray returned to the field for this week's first practice after missing Sunday's loss to Detroit. The signs seem to point toward him returning to the lineup for the first time since Week 6, but that was the sentiment last week when Murray practiced three times in preparation for the Lions.
"We've got to see," Murray said. "I was preparing and worked the last week as if I was going, and I'm going to do the same thing this week. I'm feeling better, so we'll see."
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said Monday the coaching staff made the decision to rest Murray after deciding he wasn't completely ready last Friday. He added that he was "optimistic" about his running back's prospects for this week, but don't count on a quick decision process.
"I thought he did a good job today. We'll see how he does going forward the next few days," Garrett said Wednesday afternoon.
Murray said he felt he was ready to play against the Lions, so it's natural to assume he likes his odds to play in this week's game against Minnesota. Having said that, he wasn't quite ready to declare himself back to full health following the week's first practice.
"I don't know if I can put a percentage on it, but I'm feeling better," he said. "I feel like I can contribute at a high level and help this team win."
Working within the familiar theme of injuries, members of the Cowboys secondary spoke about the rash of injuries that have befallen them in the past week.
J.J. Wilcox missed the Lions game after spraining his MCL in practice last week. The rookie didn't practice Wednesday, and he's unlikely to be ready for the Vikings game. But he said he's making progress in the recovery.
"I feel two times better. That might not mean I'm ready yet – who knows," he said. "I'm just going to go with my training staff and see what they say." Wilcox started his first career game in Week 3 against St. Louis and had been improving before the injury. He said it was frustrating to watch the Lions game without being able to help, but he wasn't able to put a definitive timetable on a return.
"I'm not sure yet. I just go with what the training staff says. They're doing a great job with me, so I'll just take it day by day," he said.
Elsewhere, Orlando Scandrick faces the prospect of filling in for the injured Morris Claiborne, who hurt his hamstring in Detroit. Previous injuries to Claiborne have forced Scandrick outside from his slot position this season
"That's not a decision I make. The coaches are going to make the best decision and put us in the best position to make plays whenever they see fit," he said.
The Cowboys have just three other cornerbacks on the roster while Claiborne recovers. It's possible they could bring in another corner or elevate Micah Pellerin from the practice squad, though Scandrick said rookie B.W. Webb is capable of a full game's workload.
"I think he is. He's just got to go out, relax, use his instinct and just play," he said. "You're going to make mistakes regardless of who you are. Just go out, relax and play, and just get better. I always say nothing stays the same – either you're getting better or you're getting worse."
The Cowboys may need to get Jason Witten and Dez Bryant on the same side more often if they want to get their tight end more involved in the passing game.
Witten said last week's double coverage was largely responsible for him getting just two targets on the day. It's now the third straight game Witten's failed to catch at least five passes, dating back to his stellar day against the Broncos with seven catches for 121 yards and a touchdown.
"Last week was tough," Witten said. "You feel like it's hard when you're seeing that type of coverage. Dez and I both, it happens. A little bit more than we anticipated, and we'd kind of seen it on tape, but you've got to get used to it and you've got to fight through it and find ways to do it and get open."
Now the trick is trying to exploit the type of coverage Witten saw last week. He said if he broke inside, a linebacker was there waiting for him, and when he broke outside, the safety was high and outside and in position to make a play on him.
Witten believes there's different ways to attack that, and one might be getting him and Bryant together more often. He also said he's got a lot of confidence the other receivers will make plays in single coverage when a defense chooses to take other players out.
"We've done some different things that made it tough on them," Witten said. "Dez and I have gotten on the same side to try to capitalize. The big touchdown to him, we were both on the same side. A little bit, I think, they know on those underneath throws when it's third-and-6, second-and-7, they're trying to anticipate it. It's all right though, maybe a little bit more (double team) than we've seen in the past, but we'll fight through it.
"The coverage will tell you where the ball goes in a lot of ways and a lot of situations. That happened the other day, and you've just got to fight through it."
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-Rowan Kavner* *
No Easing In
Undrafted rookie safety Jakar Hamilton was on the practice squad Thursday. Three days later, he was lining up against Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson in the final minute of a six-point game.
Hamilton, who hadn't taken a single snap before that game, took 13 defensive reps in the loss to the Lions and said he learned a lot in that time. He had to play after injuries to Barry Church and Danny McCray, with J.J. Wilcox already sitting out for the game with a knee injury.
"You can't shy away from the moment," Hamilton said. "When the opportunity is given, you have to take full advantage of it and go with it. I'm not trying to shy away from that. This has been my dream since I was a kid."
Hamilton, who made the tackles on Kris Durham's 40-yard catch and Calvin Johnson's 22-yard catch at the goal line on the final drive, knows how fast the game can move now. He said the trick is not thinking too much, and he's watching more and more film every day and getting with Church and Brandon Carr to get the veterans' perspective to prepare himself better for his next opportunity.
He thought he put a nice lick on Johnson and demonstrated he wasn't afraid to step up to the challenge, but he also realizes there's a lot he still needs to work on and learn as a rookie. Had he been a step closer to Durham or Johnson, those could have possibly been incompletions.
Hamilton hopes he's in store for more than the 13 reps he received last week, and he said he'll be ready whenever his number's called.
"It's crazy," he said. "One minute you're a scout teamer, and the next minute you're actually out there playing. It's just a blessing for me, man. I can't even put it into words. My family's happy. My hometown where I'm from, no one's ever been close to becoming a pro … It's an overall blessing for me."