Dallas coach Jason Garrett keeps talking about "thresholds" running back DeMarco Murray must meet to end a longer-than-expected absence because of a sprained foot.
It's probably not on the official list, but Murray offered a benchmark on Wednesday. He said there was "a chance" he could play Sunday against Cleveland.
Murray has missed four games since rushing for 93 yards in a loss at Baltimore on Oct. 14. He had 90 yards in the first half but injured his right foot in the second quarter. He had just one carry in the third quarter before coming out for good.
The second-year pro did some work on the practice field last week and joined his teammates in shorts and helmets Wednesday — exactly a month since the injury. He was officially listed as not participating, though Garrett wasn't available for an update after practice.
"This is the best I've felt mentally coming in after working out," said Murray, who has 330 yards and one touchdown this season. "I feel good."
Murray rushed for 897 yards in 13 games as a rookie last year, and set a club record with 253 yards in his first career start. But he missed the last three games after breaking an ankle. With the latest injury, both of Murray's first two pro seasons have been marred, just as his first two college seasons were at Oklahoma.
"You've got to be smart about this thing," Murray said. "I definitely don't want to go out there for one game and have to sit the rest of the year."
The Cowboys also have to consider that they're playing two games in five days, with the Thanksgiving game against Washington next week. Murray said the quick turnaround could affect his ability to recover in time.
At the same time, Murray said he was "looking forward to this game and looking forward to this week."
"Today and this week is the best I've felt," he said. "Once I feel like I can help this team and be ready to go and play like I'm accustomed to playing, I'm going to get out there. It's all still a little waiting game right now."
Spurred by Murray's fast start in Baltimore, the Cowboys rushed for 227 yards, the most the Ravens have ever allowed. In the first three games without Murray, the Cowboys didn't have more than 90 yards rushing, and finished with a paltry 19 in a 29-24 loss to the New York Giants.
Dallas was better in last weekend's 38-23 win at Philadelphia, with Felix Jones, the starter before Murray emerged, getting 71 of the team's 101 yards on the ground and scoring when he broke several tackles on an 11-yard screen pass. He had 22 yards receiving a week after getting a season-high 70 against Atlanta.
"From the Felix standpoint, I think he's healthier," coach Jason Garrett said. "I don't think he was real healthy through training camp and the early part of the season. I think he's showing some of the signs we've seen in the past from him. But again we certainly would welcome DeMarco back in the lineup."
Murray said he initially thought the injury would sideline him two games at the most, but that isn't making him more anxious to rush back.
"It's a tricky deal when you're dealing with ligaments," he said. "It's kind of like a scar. You've got to let it heal. This is something I've never done before."
Notes: The Cowboys plan to activate DE Ben Bass from the practice squad when they put DE Kenyon Coleman on injured reserve. Coleman tore a triceps muscle in his left arm in Philadelphia. Bass is a rookie free agent from Texas A&M. DE Sean Lissemore could return this week to help fill the void from the Coleman injury, but was listed as a non-participant in practice Wednesday.
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