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Murray was ridden hard in Dallas

History doesn't favor running backs who had the touches DeMarco Murray did. But Chip Kelly plans to spread out the workload.

(Charles Fox/Staff Photographer)
(Charles Fox/Staff Photographer)Read more

WELL, ON the plus side, DeMarco Murray never has torn an ACL.

What he did do, though, was lug the ball an NFL-high 392 times last season for the Dallas Cowboys, which is the seventh most in league history, and touch it 449 times, which is the sixth most ever.

He won the league rushing title by 20 city blocks and finished with 2,261 yards from scrimmage. Did all of this at the perfect time, in the final year of his rookie contract, which he parlayed into a 5-year, $40 million deal with the Eagles yesterday that includes $21 million in guaranteed money.

He just turned 27 last month and can see forever right now. Nothing can hurt him. Nothing can stop him. Nothing can kill him. He is invincible. Or at least that's the way he feels right now.

Eagles fans, who have been guzzling anti-depressants the last week to help deal with the roller-coaster ride Chip Kelly has had them on, are having a good chuckle right now at Jerry Jones' expense. But if history is any kind of indicator, it may be the Cowboys' owner who ultimately has the last laugh.

Many of the running backs who have been ridden hard and put away wet like Murray was last season in Dallas, don't live happily ever after.

Maybe it will be different for Murray, who will have the benefit of the Chip Kelly ExtendaCareer sports science program to help him recover from the trauma of those 497 regular-season and playoff touches.

Or maybe not.

The Cowboys obviously had their doubts, or they would have made sure that Murray, whom they took in the third round of the 2011 draft, never got away.

Murray is one of just 10 NFL running backs who have logged 390 or more carries in a season. Of the other nine, only two - Eric Dickerson and Eddie George - were very productive afterward.

Three of the other seven never had another 1,000-yard rushing season, and the other four had just one. None of the other seven had more than one more season with 300 or more rushing attempts.

The Broncos' Terrell Davis rushed for 2,008 yards on 392 carries in 1998, but was healthy for just 17 games over the next three seasons and was forced to retire.

The Steelers' Barry Foster rushed for 1,690 yards on 390 carries in 1992 at the age of 24. He lasted just 2 more years and never had another 1,000-yard season.

Larry Johnson had an NFL-record 416 carries with the Chiefs in 2006. He played five more seasons after that, but never rushed for more than 874 yards and never had more than 200 carries.

Jamal Anderson, who had 410 carries with the Falcons in 1998 at the age of 26, played just 21 more games over the next three seasons.

James Wilder, who had 407 carries with the Bucs in 1984, played six more seasons but had just one more 1,000-yard season and one more season with more than 200 carries.

Even George never was quite the same after his 403-carry season with the Titans in 2000. He played 4 more years and had two more 1,000-yard seasons, but never averaged more than 3.4 yards per carry in any of those seasons.

"It's such a win-now business," Cowboys running-backs coach Gary Brown said last October. "You want your good players to play as much as they can, but at the same time, you have to temper that with wisdom and make sure they'll be able to play long term."

One thing that may benefit Murray is the fact that he wasn't used a lot in his first three seasons with the Cowboys, partly because of injury and partly because the Cowboys were slow to make a commitment to the run.

He had just 542 rushing attempts in his first three seasons in Dallas and 655 overall touches.

Kelly said he doesn't intend to give Murray anywhere close to the kind of workload he had last year in Dallas. He said that was a big reason the Eagles also signed another free-agent running back yesterday, Ryan Mathews.

Mathews, who signed a 3-year, $11.5 million deal that includes $5 million in guaranteed money, rushed for 1,255 yards 2 years ago with the Chargers. He played in just seven games last year because of knee and ankle injuries.

"When you have a physical, downhill runner, you'd better have two of them because they're going to carry the ball, but they're also going to take a lot of physical shots," Kelly said. "We want to be able to spread out the carries. Having Ryan here, I would hope DeMarco doesn't have to carry the ball 392 times this year.

"We have Ryan and we also have Darren Sproles. So I don't think we have to give a running back that many carries. We want to make sure we have enough carries [for everybody]. And part of what we have to do as far as running the ball, we have to be able to distribute those carries.''

Murray said there have been no ill effects from last season, though the ultimate test will come next fall.

"I feel great,'' he said at an evening news conference at the NovaCare Complex following his signing. "I take care of my body. I work extremely hard. I know we have Darren Sproles here. We just signed Ryan Mathews. I know those guys will definitely, if I ever need a little break, they can handle the load.''

Murray said he will have no problem sharing carries with Mathews and Sproles.

"That's kind of how we did it at Oklahoma,'' he said. "Whatever they ask me to do, I'm all for it. As long as we're winning. I'm not that much of a stats guy.

"Obviously I want to be out on the field and play as much as I can. But I'm not a selfish guy. I'm excited for the future.''

On Twitter: @Pdomo