Published November 20, 2014
Felix Jones fumbled away the opening kickoff then tripped while running alone after a short catch on the final play for the Dallas Cowboys.
Those were the bookend plays in the last game for the former first-round draft pick, who has only one rushing attempt for no gain so far this season.
Even though Jones isn't breaking off the kind of explosive plays the Cowboys (No. 14 in the AP Pro 32) want to see, and had the big opening mistake that led to a quick Seattle score, coach Jason Garrett remained committed Wednesday to Jones returning kicks.
"Yeah, Felix has been such a good player for us," Garrett said. "He's coming off the injury from last year and if you just look at his track record as a play-making type player, both on offense and in the kicking game, he's been pretty darn good."
Jones was the first rookie in Cowboys history to score touchdowns in his first three games, including a 98-yard kickoff return — but that was four years ago for the running back.
There were consecutive 100-yard rushing games for Jones last December, but that was after DeMarco Murray's broken right ankle that ended his breakout rookie season. Murray got his chance when Jones missed four games with a left ankle sprain.
Jones, who has played only one full 16-game season, missed much of this past offseason after shoulder surgery. Then he was then one of three players who failed the initial conditioning test, a series of timed sprints, at the start of training camp.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones scoffed at the idea in training camp that Felix Jones, now in the final year of his rookie contract, might be in danger of losing his roster spot.
The owner said on his weekly radio show this week — after the 27-7 loss at Seattle — that his feelings haven't changed. When asked why, he gave a terse reply: "Because I do. I feel like we are in good shape."
The Cowboys (1-1) play their home opener Sunday against Tampa Bay (1-1).
"I think we saw him be quick at practice last week. I think we need to give him a little more room out there," Jerry Jones said. "We have over the years been reluctant to use him as a kickoff returner because we didn't want to risk injury, but we've decided this year to use him as a kickoff returner. He should be a great asset for us. That's the way it remains."
Felix Jones has averaged about 21 yards on his eight returns this season, but two of his five at Seattle were from eight yards deep in the end zone. While one was a season-best return of 29 yards, it was only to the 21, the best starting position he provided against the Seahawks.
Jones wasn't in the locker room when it was open to reporters Wednesday, and has said little to the media all year.
Jerry Jones, a co-captain for the 1964 Arkansas team that went undefeated, had never drafted a Razorbacks player before using one of the Cowboys' two first-round picks in 2008 on the speedy running back
Felix Jones burst into the NFL with an 11-yard TD on his very first carry, a 98-yard kickoff return in his home debut and then a 60-yard scoring run in his third game. He averaged 9.9 yards on his 30 rushing carries and 27.1 yards on 16 kickoff returns before missing the last 10 games of his rookie season because of a left hamstring injury. He then tore a ligament beneath his big left toe while rehabilitating his hamstring.
When Jones sprained his ankle last year, Murray ran for a team-record 253 yards in his first start, including a 91-yard TD run on his first carry in that game. Murray finished with a team-high 897 yards.
With Murray again the top running back, Jones is returning kicks.
"Felix does not have a huge history of having turnovers, fumbling the football as kickoff returner," Garrett said. "He had the one the other day and it was a very important play in the ballgame. We all recognize that. But we've moved on from that."
Notes: S Gerald Sensabaugh (calf) didn't practice Wednesday and likely will not be available Sunday. "Gerald's health is up in the air," Garrett said. ... The good news is the other starting safety, Barry Church, was a full participant in practice after suffering a thigh bruise against the Seahawks. ... NTs Kenyon Coleman (knee), Marcus Spears (knee) and Jay Ratliff (ankle) did not practice.
Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP_NFL