For those many who have pointed opinions about the Dallas Cowboys' situation at running back recently, ESPNDallas published an interesting piece today on two-year starter Marion Barber, specifically the deleterious effects of his bruising running style. In the piece, Cowboys' legends Emmitt Smith and Tony Dorsett are quoted as warning Barber of these effects in 2008, the year in which he took over for Julius Jones as the starting running back.
In 2007, it should be noted, Barber won a Pro Bowl appearance as the team's so-called "closer," a role to which many would like to see him return in 2010.
"I think he spends a lot of energy that may not be necessary," Smith said. "For a starting back, I'm all about putting your heart into it, but you're doing a lot of kicking, running up, bucking and you're exerting a lot of energy.
"We need you for four quarters. And I'm going to say 'we' because I'm a Cowboy, too. We need you for four quarters."
Dorsett also spoke to Barber about taking unnecessary contact.
“I like him a whole lot,” Dorsett said. “My only concern is that this is a very physical league. ...When you take a lot of hits over a period of time, it takes its toll on you. I just hope he becomes a little wiser and smarter about some of the hits he takes."
After two injury-laden seasons as the starter, Barber and the Cowboys have begun to see the wisdom in Dorsett's and Smith's words. Barber has focused on slimming down and growing quicker, and running backs coach Skip Peete, as noted by ESPN's Matt Mosley, has taken Barber aside to discuss the difference between necessary and unnecessary punishment.
"I remember talking to Barry Sanders about why he ran out of bounds when he was close to the sidelines, and he said, 'Why should I take that hit if it was unnecessary?'" Peete said. "I feel the same way.
“You see a guy lower his shoulder to get the extra yard, but why do it if it's not going to benefit the team? It looks good on TV, but you chance losing him. What does that do if it's only going to be second-and-7 instead of second-and-8? You didn't need to take that hit. If it's third-and-5, then you drive for the first down.
"You have to be smart."