ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) DeMarco Murray and Sam Bradford were college teammates at Oklahoma who have had some similarities in the NFL.
Both had standout rookies seasons, though a year apart – running back Murray with the Dallas Cowboys last fall after St. Louis Rams quarterback Bradford’s impressive debut as the NFL’s offensive rookie of the year in 2010. There were also the ankle injuries that hampered both last season.
They will play in the same game for the first time since their days with the Sooners in a preseason game Saturday night at Cowboys Stadium.
Bradford was hurt when the Rams played there last October, on the day that Murray got his first start and set a Cowboys single-game record with 253 yards rushing in a 34-7 victory. Murray opened with a 91-yard touchdown run.
In two preseason games so far, Murray has only five carries for 12 yards. Expect him to get some more touches against the Rams.
“It will still be a limited number,” coach Jason Garrett said. “We don’t want him banging away at there for too long in this game. At the same time, we want to make sure to give him enough chances to get in the rhythm he needs to. … You don’t want to put him in a situation where he is leaving it all out there on a preseason game field.”
Garrett plans for quarterback Tony Romo and the starting offense to get their most extensive action in the preseason. The coach said the game situation could dictate exactly how much to make sure they get quality work.
The Cowboys (No. 15 in the AP Pro32) will be without seven-time Pro Bowl tight end Jason Witten (spleen) along with receivers Miles Austin (hamstring) and Dez Bryant (right knee tendinitis).
A week after Bradford produced touchdowns his first two drives, Steven Jackson ran for 49 yards on seven carries and the line kept their young quarterback upright, the Rams (No. 28, AP Pro32) anticipate increasing the playing time for starters only a bit this week.
New coach Jeff Fisher is taking a different approach than most coaches, planning to play his starters into the second half in the final preseason game at home Thursday against Baltimore.
And Fisher isn’t worried about his players being satisfied with their 31-17 win over Kansas City last week.
“There were enough mistakes in that game to correct to keep their attention, keep them focused,” Fisher said.
The Rams anticipate center Scott Wells, who has been rehabbing from offseason knee surgery since signing a four-year free agent deal, to get his first game action of the preseason. Safety Darian Stewart and wide receiver Brandon Gibson, who both have been bothered by hamstring injuries, also are expected to play for the first time in the preseason.
Dallas returned home this week after 3 1/2 weeks in California for training camp, their first two preseason games and two days of practices with the San Diego Chargers.
“We still have two more weeks,” linebacker Sean Lee said. “As much as we’re not in camp, we’re not in California, you still have to keep that camp attitude … that preparation, keeping that focus.”
The Cowboys have their final two preseason games in a five-day span. Their game Wednesday night at home against Miami will come a week before the regular-season opener at the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants.
Murray missed the final three games last season because of a fractured right ankle, but still led the team with 897 yards rushing. He had 601 yards in his first four starts – more than NFL career rushing leader Emmitt Smith ever had over a similar stretch for the Cowboys.
“I never like to live my life in the rear-view mirror. I’m just trying to go out here and get better each and every day,” Murray said. “Last year was last year. The bad things, the great things that we did, it’s a whole new team and we’re doing some good things this year.”