IRVING, Texas – It feels like months have passed since Rolando McClain last played football for the Cowboys – such been the whirlwind of the last week or two.
You could start with the knee injury he's battling – that he has battled since Week 9, all the way back on Nov. 2, which has limited him in practice. There's also the bout with illness that kept him out of the Week 17 win against Washington – it kept him off the plane to the game entirely, in fact.
"I feel about as good as anybody else at this point of the season. But it's win or go home, so suck it up and get ready to play," McClain said on Friday afternoon.
It's a good point that any pro football player preparing for the 17th game of the season is probably fighting an ailment or two. McClain is also dealing with plenty of off-the-field turmoil, though, as his home in Alabama burned down during the week leading up to Christmas.
"It's a tough situation – it's your home, you know? I don't know if anybody here has ever lost their home, but it's a tough situation," he said. "It is what it is. Get your emotions together, get everything back together and put it towards football."
Reports in the days after the incident indicated that Alabama authorities were investigating "suspicious" elements of the fire. McClain didn't want to fuel that conversation, but he said that didn't appear to be an issue.
"You guys did a lot of speculation, as well as other media. So I'll let y'all speculate," he said. "From what I've been told with the fire investigator, it's nothing, so I won't say anything until I know something."
With all of that said, McClain figures to be back on the field Sunday when the Cowboys begin their postseason. He was limited in Wednesday's practice, but he was a full participant on Thursday and Friday and is listed as "probable."
He'll be needed to help contain an offense that features not just Calvin Johnson, but weapons like Golden Tate, Joique Bell and Reggie Bush.
"Lot of talent, lot of guys making plays, quarterback that controls everything," he said. "You've obviously got to pay attention to No. 81, but they're a good team, well-coached. We just have to play good ball."
Of course, the do-or-die nature of the playoffs was bound to bring up the much-discussed topic of McClain's future with the Cowboys. His one-year contract is up after the season – which could end as soon as Sunday, while absolute best-case scenario has the former top 10 pick under contract for just four more games.
"I know the best thing is just being on a team that cares for you as much as you care for them," he said. "It's not hard to go out and play for guys that care for you the same as you care for them. It's a real good season, I guess, so to say. It's not over, obviously. We still can play four more games, so we'll see."
As for the future, McClain left that for later.
"Honestly, I haven't thought of it. I've been focused on the Lions," he said. "They're a good team, and you've got to be focused. Whatever happens after, happens."
As if it wasn't amazing enough that Zack Martin would be named first-team All-Pro as a rookie, consider this: he earned that recognition playing a position he was completely unfamiliar with.
Martin came to Dallas after a dominating stint as Notre Dame's left tackle. He didn't try guard until he arrived at Valley Ranch.
"I had never played it, so there's a little bit of not knowing. But Coach Callahan and Coach Pollack and these guys have helped me out a ton," Martin said. "I think the great thing is you can build on that, that was kind of the idea and that's what they told me."
It feels unfair to say Martin "built on" anything, considering the type of season he has had. The rookie hasn't been flagged for holding once this season. He's only allowed one sack on the year, to Pro Bowl linebacker Ryan Kerrigan back in Week 8.
Those are two impressive figures, and they're bound to be put to the test Sunday. Detroit's dominant front four has been lauded all week, and given his positioning on that front, there's a good chance Ndamukong Suh will spend a good deal of time going against Martin.
Martin said the Lions' line is "probably collectively the best group we've seen.
"He's a great player," he said of Suh. "Their defensive line gets off the ball very fast, so you have to do a great job of stopping that initial force and then trying to counter it."
In the meantime, the rookie doesn't expect any different treatment just because of some accolades.
"I'm on coffee duty tomorrow," he said.
Another Nomination For Murray
By now, the phrase "FedEx Air & Ground Player of the Week" should sound familiar. En route to 1,845 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns, DeMarco Murray was nominated for the weekly award a whopping nine times.
All in all, Murray won the award on five occasions – including four in a row during his first-half run of eight-straight 100-yard performances.
It's not surprising, then, that as the NFL's leading rusher, Murray was announced as a nominee for FedEx Air & Ground Player of the Year. As usual, fans can go to NFL.com/FedEx to vote for the newly-named All-Pro running back.
For weekly wins, FedEx typically makes a $2,000 donation to the local chapter of The American Red Cross. If Murray wins the yearly award, FedEx will make a $25,000 donation.
Murray's competitors for the award are Pittsburgh running back Le'Veon Bell and Seattle's Marshawn Lynch. Bell finished second in the league with 1,361 rushing yards and adding another 854 receiving yards. Bell was nominated for the weekly award five times and won it three times.
Lynch finished third in the league with 1,306 rushing yards, and he tied Murray for the touchdown lead with 13. He added another 367 receiving yards and four touchdown catches. He was nominated for the weekly award four times and won it twice.