IRVING (AP) – The Dallas Cowboys are running out of running backs.
Felix Jones missed practice Tuesday because of hamstring tightness, leaving the NFC East-leading Cowboys with Sammy Morris and Chauncey Washington. Neither was even with an NFL team at Thanksgiving.
Coach Jason Garrett is hopeful that Jones will be able to practice this week and play in Saturday’s regular-season home finale against Philadelphia (7-7).
If not, Morris would be the likely starter a week after the 12-year NFL veteran was signed and made his season debut behind Jones with 12 carries for 53 yards against Tampa Bay.
“Sammy is the most logical choice, so he got a lot of the work (Tuesday), and we have another young back on our practice roster (Washington), so he’ll get a chance to do some of that too,” Garrett said. “That’s kind of the plan right now, but we’re hopeful that Felix will be able to practice as the week goes on.”
Garrett didn’t say which hamstring was bothering Jones, who wasn’t in the locker room when it was open to reporters.
“He feels good,” Garrett said. “He just had this little tightness in his hamstring, so we didn’t think it was a good idea to have him practice.”
But Jones being out of practice was a reminder of just how thin the playoff-chasing Cowboys (8-6) have become at running back.
Rookie DeMarco Murray, the team’s leading rusher with 897 yards, went on season-ending injured reserve last week after he broke his right ankle against the New York Giants. That came after Phillip Tanner, another rookie running back, had been put on injured reserve a week earlier with a hamstring injury.
Washington, whose only four NFL carries came as a rookie for Jacksonville in 2008, was signed to the Cowboys’ practice squad Nov. 30. He had been out of football since being cut by St. Louis during training camp on Aug. 4.
Morris was home in New England when he got a call last week from the Cowboys and Garrett, his former teammate and coach in Miami. Morris had been working out, but hadn’t played since being cut by the Patriots at the end of training camp after playing there the last four seasons.
“Everything is kind of getting reintroduced, first day out here at practice was just getting used to running around and cutting, I guess as far as like reacting to somebody to cut, then it was on game day actually putting on pads,” Morris said Tuesday. “The soreness was next, so I’ve got to work my way through it and get back out there.”
Asked what he expected his role to be if Jones isn’t able to go, Morris insisted it will be the same as last week in Tampa Bay.
“Help the team win. It’s not really complicated,” Morris said. “Whether it’s five carries, or 25, it’s help the team win.”
The 34-year-old Morris played in all 16 games for New England last season, but hasn’t started a game since 2009. He was primarily a backup at running back and fullback who contributed on special teams for the Patriots, like he has most of his career.
Morris discounted the thought of being fresh just because he wasn’t playing the first 13 games.
“Nah, the fresh legs went out the window like five years ago,” Morris said. “I’m really just trying to just make the most and do whatever I can to stay on top of the soreness, or tiredness, whatever it may be. … But there was just a general sense of something being new again.”
Especially considering that before the Cowboys called he was resigning himself to the thought that he had maybe played his last NFL game.
“It just shows you how fast things can change,” he said. “I thought my life was going in this direction and it ends up going in the other direction.”
Garrett and the Cowboys have certainly found out how quickly things can change.
With Murray’s emergence, the Cowboys were working to develop quite a 1-2 combo with the rookie and Jones.
They may play their next game with Morris and Washington.
“It’s part of the game, why there are so many running backs in this league,” said Washington, who shared time with Morris in practice Tuesday. “It’s a good opportunity, to get a rhythm with the first team. … It feels good, the coaches are putting back there just to step in, give Sammy some rest.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)