Cowboys' running back Marion Barber drew a good deal of criticism last year after he was perceived to slow down toward the end of the season. Many wondered aloud, after he rushed for 18 yards on 11 carries in the last two games, if his running style hadn't finally taken its toll.
Then there were the calls for Felix Jones to replace Barber as the starting running back.
As it turns out, Barber had a pretty decent excuse for being less than stellar last January: ESPNDallas.com has reported that he was playing with a partially torn left quad, an injury that dates back to week two and the somewhat heartbreaking loss to New York in the Cowboys Stadium opener.
That's 13 games, and the quad wasn't the former Pro Bowler's only issue. He also battled knee injuries and a broken thumb. So while weathering some criticism from fans and the press, Barber was winning some serious respect from teammates and coaches.
"That just shows you how strong-willed he is," said Felix Jones. "He's one of the more physical guys in the world. It's like a slap in the face to criticize him. You're putting your body on the line in getting hit from all types of directions. That's somebody you look up to. He's shown us a lot."
For some, like strength and conditioning coach Joe Juraszek, that Barber played through the injury comes as no surprise.
"There is no question about his toughness," Juraszek said. "He's prideful about his job. As tough as he is and as much pride as he is, for him to miss any time is a surprise to me."