DeMarco Murray isn’t a numbers guy. But there’s no doubt in his mind that can be a running back who can withstand the pounding of an entire season.
"If they decide to do that with me, of course," Murray told FOXSports.com, when asked if he could handle a 300-carry-a-season workload. "Whatever they decide to do with me, I think I can handle it."
The talented running back has had trouble staying on the field during the first three years of his NFL career, as he missed six games with a sprained foot in 2012 and another pair of games last season with a sprained MCL. He finished 2013 with 217 carries, the most of his career, but was tied for 17th in the league.
How will Murray be able to able to withstand the workload that could put him among the league leaders in carries, a la Marshawn Lynch and LeSean McCoy?
"You just have to take care of your body and know when to go and fight for that extra yard or inch and know when not to," said Murray, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract. "That’s something about just being a smarter football player in general and knowing when you’re helping your team and when you’re hurting your team."
Preparing to take the pounding is on top of Murray’s agenda when it comes to his offseason workout regime.
"Definitely tried to change up a few things and stay fresh," he said. "You know you have to be in shape for training."
Whether Murray actually gets those carries will be largely up to Scott Linehan, the man brought in by the Cowboys to "run" the offense. While Bill Callahan is technically the team’s offensive coordinator, Linehan – the "passing game coordinator" — is widely believed to be the man calling the shots when it comes to calling plays.
Linehan is known around the league as a pass-happy kind of play-caller. In fact, as the offensive coordinator with the Lions from 2009-13, Detroit was consistently among the league leaders in pass attempts. But Linehan has said his thinking has changed since arriving in Big D.
"Things that were done last year in the running game with DeMarco, the running style that was created here is really a good fit," Linehan said in May on a Dallas radio station. "That’s going to be our strength, being able to lean on that running game a little bit more than they have in the past.
Murray has liked what he has seen and heard from the man in charge this offseason during OTAs and minicamps.
"I feel great about it. Definitely think he’s a very smart coach, definitely brings a lot to the table. Throwing, running, different type of zone runs … I think he does a good job of getting his best players the ball and getting us the ball a lot. I’m excited."
Linehan might want to tape this stat to his clipboard: The Cowboys are 11-0 when Murray gets 20 carries in a game. Makes sense, right? After all, this is a player who has averaged almost 5.0 yards per carry over his career.
Murray downplays that stat, saying that he doesn’t "know what kind of factor that plays into us winning or losing," but the numbers are pretty clear. Feed him the ball and good things will happen. Murray feels that he’s definitely a running back who grows stronger as the game goes along.
"The more touches you get, the more time you’re actually on the field, you get in a zone. You get into a great rhythm and you feel comfortable," he said.
Another factor in Murray’s favor is the Cowboys’ offensive line. The front office has quietly put together a solid group over the past couple seasons. Tackles Tyron Smith and Doug Free are dependable players who rarely make mistakes and second-year center Travis Frederick has proven the doubters who scoffed at his first-round selection in 2013 wrong.
"Once you have a group that are constantly working out together and playing together, I think they build chemistry. It’s good that we’ve been able to keep the same five guys and add a new guy," Murray said.
That new guy is rookie Zack Martin, the No. 1 draft pick who played tackle at Notre Dame, but who will most likely play at guard in 2014.
"He looks real good. Really good," Murray added.
A beefed-up offensive line and a play-caller who likes what Murray brings to the table could mean a breakout season for the fourth-year running back. That means his career-high 1,121 rushing yards and Pro Bowl selection in 2013 is just the beginning. And that’s ideal as he will be facing a contract decision at the end of the season.
However, with the running back position seemingly declining in value, does that mean a big-money contract isn’t in his future? After all, Browns running back Ben Tate — the big prize at the position during the offseason — scored just a two-year deal worth just more than $6 million from the Cleveland Browns.
It’s hard to imagine Murray won’t get significantly more than that, but regardless, he doesn’t care.
"I’m not a numbers guy, I don’t pay attention to that," said Murray, who was in Los Angeles to promote Old Spice body wash, shampoo, deodorant and their latest "Head to Toes" freshness campaign. "When the time comes, something will get done. I don’t know what [Tate] got or what he deserves or anything like that. Who is to say what anyone deserves? I think you deserve what you work for in life."
And the Cowboys are working to end that streak of falling short of the playoffs, which stands at four seasons. As in every season in Dallas, there’s a lot of talent. It’s just a matter of whether putting it together.
So, are the Cowboys built to win a Super Bowl?
"Definitely," Murray said. "The front office did a great job of adding components and giving us a great chance to win and win now.
"I think it’s about being a selfless individual and a selfless person and making sure you’re prepared. You’re a man and this is your job."