Felix Jones excited for more playing time

Published Oct. 17, 2012 7:34 p.m. EDT

IRVING – Standing in front of his locker Wednesday at the Cowboys' Valley Ranch practice facility, Felix Jones looked like a happy man.

The former first-round pick was smiling for nearly his entire four-minute interview.

With DeMarco Murray sidelined because of a left-foot sprain, Jones will be the Cowboys' starting running back at Carolina on Sunday.

"I feel good. Excited. Happy," Jones said. "You're supposed to be a little sore, a little banged up and that's how I feel, but that's a good feeling."

Jones was part of the Cowboys ground game that amassed 227 rushing yards last Sunday in Baltimore. He carried 18 times for 92 yards and a touchdown, his best effort since Week 14 and 15 last season when he recorded consecutive 100-yard games.

"For me, it's just being patient," Jones said. "I know my opportunities are going to come. I just had to wait for it and when it came, just maximize it."

Before Sunday, Jones had only managed three carries for 13 yards over the previous three games. He got off to a slow start after missing all of the off-season workouts while recovering from shoulder surgery. Jones then opened training camp by failing the team's mandatory conditioning test.

Throughout the preseason and first four weeks of the regular season, Jones looked slow and unable to shake defenders. But according to the former Arkansas standout, nothing was wrong with him physically.

"Coming into the season I felt like I was 100 percent," Jones said. "The first game of the preseason I thought I was good. I just had to show my team that I was ready."

He'll have to be ready on Sunday if the Cowboys want to climb back to .500. He might be needed to carry 20-plus times, depending on the game plan.

Is he ready for that?

"Absolutely," Jones responded. "I want to help out the team any way possible. If that's carrying the load, I'm going to do it."

In terms of the big picture, Jones is a free agent at the end of the season. Not only will the 25-year-old get an opportunity to show the Cowboys what he can do in a lead role but also any other team looking to sign a running back.

But Jones said that's not on his mind at the moment.

"I'm just focused on today," he said. "Focused on getting ready for the Carolina Panthers. I can't look too far ahead because I'll lose focus of what's going on right now."