By SCHUYLER DIXON
IRVING, Texas — DeMarco Murray let his mind “marinate” while he was benched for fumbling in a preseason game against Cincinnati.
Taking his cooking analogy one step further, the Dallas Cowboys running back was never boiling even though he was forced to watch a quarter and a half.
Murray acknowledged Monday that he was frustrated by the move. And he definitely got the message because he had 45 rushing yards and a 7-yard scoring catch on one drive when coach Jason Garrett gave him another chance after sitting him three straight series in the Cowboys’ 24-18 victory Saturday.
“I wasn’t mad at anyone,” said Murray, who fumbled inside the Dallas 10 the third time he touched the ball but was bailed out by offensive lineman Jermey Parnell’s recovery. “I wasn’t pouting on the sidelines. I was waiting for my opportunity to get back in the game. Once my number was called, I was ready to play.”
Garrett didn’t bench the third-year back immediately after the miscue — Murray handled the ball twice more before a Dallas punt.
But the coach clearly was fed up after the loose ball on the Cowboys’ fifth offensive play just one week after they had five turnovers in the first half and six total in a loss at Arizona.
“Can’t happen,” Garrett said, pointing out that avoiding turnovers was a “huge emphasis” in training camp and had to be reinforced after the loss to the Cardinals. “I don’t care who you are. We can’t have it. DeMarco’s a man. He understands what his role is on this football team. We just felt that was the right thing to do, and he responded exactly how we thought he would respond.”
The Cowboys have preached carrying the ball “high and tight” throughout the preseason, and Murray was simply the latest to violate that rule in a game.
Lance Dunbar, who could be Murray’s backup if he can recover from a sprained foot in time, lost a ball against the Cardinals when he stretch it over his head and lost control as he was falling backward after a long run. Receiver Dez Bryant had the ball stripped after a nice gain on a catch and run against Arizona.
Murray was carrying the ball just loosely enough for a Cincinnati defender to punch it out when he was trying to fight for extra yardage.
“Mentally, I’m always ready to play,” Murray said. “I made a mistake and I can’t let that happen. No one needs to motivate me. I know how to motivate myself. Just got to get things better.”
Phillip Tanner got the rest of the carries before halftime — and finished the half with 39 yards on 14 tries. Yet Tanner knows who’s starting and who’s still fighting for a roster spot.
“When (Murray) makes a mistake, he has the same mindset,” said Tanner, who will play while Murray sits Thursday night because most of the starters are expected to be held out of the preseason finale at home against Houston. “He just sits back to himself, he calms down, he gets himself together and he goes out and plays football at its highest level.”
Murray had to wait until the third quarter to make amends, and he was taking handoffs from Kyle Orton instead of Tony Romo. But he did have the first-team offensive line in front of him.
“I wouldn’t say it got my attention, I know how important the ball is,” Murray said. “You can’t fumble. Since I’ve been carrying the ball from high school to college, even here, I’ve never been a fumbler. So, I’m not worried about it.”
Garrett’s usually not one to share when he’s trying to send a message, but didn’t hesitate when it came to Murray’s miscue — after the game or in Monday’s meeting with reporters. There’s just one area he didn’t really care to address — whether he would do the same thing in a regular-season game.
“Hypothetical decisions are hard to deal with from this podium,” he said with a smile.
Regardless, the message was received.