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Tony Pollard Is 'Faster' Now, Ready for RB1 Crown

25 May 2023:  Tony Pollard (20)    
of the Dallas Cowboys during an OTA  practice at the Ford Center at The Star in Frisco, Texas.   Photo by James D. Smith/Dallas Cowboys
25 May 2023: Tony Pollard (20) of the Dallas Cowboys during an OTA practice at the Ford Center at The Star in Frisco, Texas. Photo by James D. Smith/Dallas Cowboys

FRISCO, Texas — The 2023 season will feature the complete unleashing of Tony Pollard. The former fourth-round pick is entering his fifth year in the NFL as the premier back for the Dallas Cowboys, following the team's decision to part ways with former two-time rushing champ Ezekiel Elliott.

Pollard delivered his first-ever Pro Bowl season in 2022 en route to breaking the 1,000-yard mark for the first time in his young career, and it also landed him a franchise tag to guarantee he wouldn't be in another uniform this coming season.

First things first, however, and that's making sure he's back to full health before things get underway in September, if not sooner — having suffered a broken leg in January. 

"Right now, I'm feeling really good about where I am — a little bit ahead of schedule," said Pollard at the end of OTAs. "Being able to get out there for the walkthrough parts and to be out there with the team, get out there and get my feet wet. I'm not really limited at this point, it's just [about] being smart with it. Just trying to work my way back in slowly and make sure I'm in tip-top shape so there's not a fall-off."

Pollard took reps with the first team in OTAs as he works his way back onto the field, and it doesn't appear he's lost a step. If anything, as described by Pollard himself, he's gained one. 

"Honestly, I feel faster," he said. "... I feel like I've got a lot of juice in me."

This all bodes very well for the 26-year-old with still several weeks to go before training camp gets underway in late July, and he sees now reason (barring a setback) that he won't be cleared fully by the time the team makes its way to Oxnard, and that also means he expects to take the start against the New York Giants on Sept. 10. 

"I'll be ready," he said, wearing a smile.

It's unknown if that will be under the aforementioned franchise tag or if he and the Cowboys will agree to terms on a long-term deal before the league's deadline in mid-July, but Pollard isn't sweating it and prefers to focus on getting back to top form before a pivotal season for the entire team gets underway. 

"I let my agent handle that — do the dirty work — and I just come in ready to work," he said.

The tone of this season is monumentally different than it's ever been for Pollard, though, and not simply because he's returning from the most devastating injury of his football career, but also because he's entering the season for the first time as Batman and not Robin. 

That means taking on more of a mentoring role for the young players in the RB room, e.g., Deuce Vaughn and Malik Davis, and his lessons learned from Elliott will come in handy in that capacity.

"Having a vet like Zeke, for the years that I was here with him, it was a great learning experience to see how you're supposed to handle things as a vet and the older guy in the room," Pollard said, the once-dynamic RB tandem having evolved into a brotherhood. "He did a great job paving the way for me and showing me how to lead those guys by example."

And that's exactly what he's hoping to do: lead by example.

As CeeDee Lamb learned last year, the crown is heavy, and it's all about what you do with it once it's placed upon your head. Lamb stepped up and silenced any and all questions, and it's now Pollard's turn to do the same. 

For his part, he's starved to get to the business of proving the Cowboys right.

"We've got a great stable of backs here, but it does feel good when they look at you personally as the lead back in the room," he said. "I'm just grateful for the opportunity and I'm ready to make the most of it."

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