UPDATE: Veteran running back Alfred Morris reported for duty in the Dallas Cowboys training camp Tuesday.
The former Cowboy signed a one-year contract to return to the team. After arriving in camp Monday night, Morris was in full pads this morning. He is wearing No. 23.
Morris is the Cowboys’ insurance policy after it was reported that star running back Ezekiel Elliott had left the country to train in Cabo, Mexico, while he holds out for a new contract. Elliott still has two years left on his rookie deal.
This is Morris’s second stint with the Cowboys, having played in 2016 and 2017. Over those two seasons, he rushed for 790 yards and three touchdowns. The eight-year NFL veteran started five games in 2017, the year Elliott served a six-game suspension. Morris last played for the San Francisco 49ers during the 2018 season, where he rushed for 428 yards on 111 carries and scored two touchdowns.
“He was available to us," head coach Jason Garrett said. "Obviously, Zeke is not here. Morris is a really good veteran player who we know and really like. We wanted to keep him last year, and he felt like there was a better opportunity in San Francisco. When we had a chance to bring him back, we thought it was a good thing for our team. Obviously in Zeke’s absence, there are plenty of reps for a guy like that to get, so we’ll ease him into practice over the next few days.”
When asked whether the Cowboys would have brought in Morris if Elliott had reported to camp on time, Garrett quickly deflected.
“I don’t really live in those hypotheticals," Garrett said. "This is the situation we’re in. Morris is here. He’s in shape and ready to go. We do like our young backs. We like what they’ve done. But they’re young players. They haven’t played very much. We like the competition in that room and it’s great to have Alfred back."
Aside from Morris, the Cowboys' stable of running backs is fairly young. Darius Jackson is the only back to have logged any snaps with 'Big D' in 2018, rushing six times for 16 yards. Tony Pollard, Mike Weber and Jordan Chunn are all first-year players. Garrett believes Morris' veteran presence can help that young core improve.
“I think they’ll benefit a great deal," he said. "Alfred’s a pro. He’s been very successful as a runner in this league. He’s had 1,000-yard years earlier in his career when he was the featured back, but there’s also a lot to learn from how he handled the situation here. He wasn’t playing very much and, in some games, he wasn’t very active. But when he got his chance, he came in, was ready and played very well for us. He’s an outstanding person. It’s great to bring him back to our organization.”
Throughout Elliott's holdout, Garrett and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones have championed the philosophy of "Next man up." Garrett doesn't think looking outside the organization for that "next man" is a bad thing.
“The competition that you have isn’t only with the 89 other guys on the team, it’s with the football world," Garrett explained. "There’s trades. There’s free agency. There’s things that we all do to try to build our football team. ‘Next man up’ means there’s going to be a competition for that spot. ‘Next man up’ doesn’t mean you’re entitled. You’re going to have to compete for that spot and earn that spot.”
Garrett deflected once again when he was asked about Elliott reportedly training in Cabo.
“(I have) no real reaction to that," he said. "We’re focused on the guys we have here and what we have to do to get better. Zeke loves football and he works really hard. He’s competitive, passionate and he’s had a big impact on our team over the course of the last three years. We trust him as a player and as a person. We’d love to get him back here as soon as we can, and we trust that he’s going to be ready to go.”
OXNARD, Calif. (Monday, 7/29) -- The Dallas Cowboys have found an alternative to negotiating with Ezekiel Elliott: signing Alfred Morris.
Reports late Monday night say that the free agent running back signed a deal that would reunite him with the Cowboys. The move comes hours after it was reported that Elliott had left the United States to train in Cabo, Mexico. Morris played two seasons in Dallas, started five games and averaged 5 yards per carry in 2017. That same year, Elliott opened the season serving a six-game suspension.
According to NFL Network's Jane Slater, Morris visited with the Saints this afternoon, but signed with Dallas immediately after the offer was extended. He is expected to show up to training camp in Oxnard, California, on Tuesday.
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