Cowboys gamble on Day 2 of draft
Injury concerns hang over UNC linebacker Carter, OU’s Murray.
By Tom Orsborn
Oklahoma running back DeMarco Murray dives for the end zone during last season’s victory over the Texas Longhorns at the Cotton Bowl. EDWARD A. ORNELASfirstname.lastname@example.org
IRVING — Selecting players with injury baggage on the second day of the draft is becoming a tradition of sorts for the Dallas Cowboys.
The Cowboys’ second- and third-round draft picks Friday — North Carolina linebacker Bruce Carter and Oklahoma running back DeMarco Murray — will arrive at Valley Ranch surrounded by question marks just as Penn State linebacker Sean Lee did last year after the team took him in the second round.
Dallas selected Carter out of North Carolina with the 40th overall choice even though he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee late last season and underwent reconstructive surgery Dec. 14. Before the injury, he was projected as a first-round pick.
He’s going through rehab now and likely will be limited in training camp.
“I’ve been through a lot with my knee,” Carter said in a conference call. “I felt I was so much at the top and had so much to prove, and I wanted to show everybody what I can do. And then to have my knee messed up, it felt like everything was taken away from me.
“But I kept battling and I’m just happy to be here.”
It’s a familiar story. Dallas selected Lee a year ago even after he missed his junior season in 2008 with a torn ACL in his right knee. He was slowed by knee problems as a rookie, but he maintained those injuries were not related to his surgery in college.
“Our definition of a second-round player is that they have to be ultimately and quickly be a starter, so we view him as that,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said of Carter. “In our grading system, he was up there in the first round as far as where his talent is and how he can run.”
Carter played on the outside in UNC’s 4-3 alignment, but his 6-foot-2, 233-pound size makes him better suited to play weak side inside linebacker in Dallas’ 3-4 scheme.
Provided he recovers from the injury.
“That’s an injury that we have a lot of success with in the NFL with the proper rehab,” Jones said. “We do a great job of it. We may be the only team in the NFL with one of them, Britt Brown, totally dedicated to rehab in that area.”
The Cowboys also like Carter as a special-teams ace after he blocked five kicks in 2008.
“He is an outstanding special-teams player,” coach Jason Garrett said.
The 6-foot, 214-pound Murray left Oklahoma as its all-time leader in all-purpose yards (6,718) and touchdowns (65), but he was slowed by leg injuries each season, and his upright running style leaves him open to absorbing big hits.
“People always want to mention the injuries, but I missed four games in four years and that was in the beginning of my career and I had no (serious) problems after that,” Murray said. “I definitely bounced back and carried myself well. I’m 100 percent.”
The selection of Murray with the 71st overall pick could lead to the Cowboys releasing Marion Barber, who lost his starting job late last season to Felix Jones. Tashard Choice‘s inability to produce on special teams also could be an opening for Murray, who can return punts.
“He’s a complete back,” Garrett said. “He’s a guy who is big and sturdy. You get a chance to be around him, you will see how long he is and how big his hands are. He’s a physical-looking halfback. A guy who has versatility: as a runner, a receiver and as a third-down blocker. We are going to create competition and see where he stacks up.”