Barber practices, says thigh is fine
Marion Barber said his left thigh felt good enough for test run
Barber strained his leg during a 35-yard run last Sunday
Felix Jones and Tashard Choice would fill in if Barber can't go
IRVING, Texas (AP) -- Marion Barber walked out to the practice field in full gear Wednesday and flashed a thumbs-up.
His tight left thigh was feeling fine -- or, at least, good enough to give it a test run.
Barber did some light jogging and caught a few balls during the portion of practice open to reporters. The Cowboys refused to say what else the starting running back did or didn't do because they don't have to put out an injury report until Thursday, because their next game is Monday night.
"I'm feeling good," Barber said before practice. "If I'm good today, I'm going to be tomorrow and then I'm going to be good up until Monday."
Barber strained his leg during a 35-yard run late in the fourth quarter of Dallas' loss to the New York Giants on Sunday night. It might've been a 42-yard touchdown run had he not come up lame.
Barber said it "felt like a bad cramp" and that it's happened to him before. He's hopeful of playing against Carolina on Monday night.
An MRI showed no damage beyond whatever pain Barber feels. He was bound to be sore for a few days anyway after running 18 times for 124 yards and a touchdown.
On Wednesday, Barber walked through the locker room without a limp. He said he hadn't run since the game. If the pain was severe, or if the team was worried about the injury getting aggravated, coaches probably would've erred on the side of caution and kept him from even suiting up Wednesday.
"There's no injury report so we really don't want to comment on injuries today in case somebody else in the other city would find out," coach Wade Phillips said. "Did you see him out there? OK. There you go."
Jones is their breakaway threat and he showed it by turning seven carries into 96 yards against the Giants, including the seven yards Barber left after his injury. Choice had eight yards on two carries, but he proved he can handle being Dallas' main runner with his performance over the last month of last season when Jones and Barber were hurt.
"Obviously both of them know that if Marion isn't capable of going, their role is going to be picked up a little," running backs coach Skip Peete said. "Whether either one of them is in there, I feel very comfortable, both run or pass."
With another 13 games left and two guys who could fill in, the Cowboys could be tempted to play it safe with Barber. But Peete said he's either ready or he's not.
"If the player is capable of going and it's not going to hinder the offense or himself, then it's probably in the best interest to let them play," Peete said. "But that's all determined by the player, the trainers, how he's looking in practice."
Then again, regardless of health, coaches are always thinking about how much to use each running back.
"You just have to monitor and watch them," Peete said. "If one of them is getting really hot and having a lot of success, obviously you continue to keep them in there. On the second hand, you also want to watch the extent of how much they wear down. It depends on the look in their eyes when they come to the sideline. If they're tired, you need to take them out and give them a breather. If they're looking fine and feeling fine, you leave them in there."
The Cowboys ran for 251 yards against the Giants, their most in any game since 1993. Barber's average of 6.9 yards per carry was the best of his career.
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