Tony Pollard sounds as ready as ever to take the Dallas Cowboys’ RB1 role and run away with it.
Speaking to reporters for the first time since suffering a broken leg in January, Pollard said that he’s in a good place, health-wise.
“Right now, I’m feeling really good about where I am — a little bit ahead of schedule,” Pollard said at the end of organized team activities, per the team’s website. “Being able to get out there for the walkthrough parts and to be out there with the team, get out there and get my feet wet. I’m not really limited at this point, it’s just [about] being smart with it. Just trying to work my way back in slowly and make sure I’m in tip-top shape so there’s not a fall-off.”
Although Pollard hasn’t been fully cleared for action, he was able to take reps with the Cowboys’ first-team offense in OTAs and said he hasn’t lost any of his speed since the injury. In fact, Pollard believes he’s actually faster.
“Honestly, I feel faster,” he said. “I feel like I’ve got a lot of juice in me.”
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The Cowboys are going to need all the juice Pollard can squeeze out of his 6-foot, 209-pound frame this season, even coming off career highs in 2022 in nearly every offensive category, including carries (193), rush yards (1,007) and total touchdowns (12). Dallas released two-time rushing champ Ezekiel Elliott this offseason and has limited established options behind Pollard.
Other veteran backs on the roster include Malik Davis, Ronald Jones and Rico Dowdle. Of those, Jones has the most experience with 505 NFL carries, but only 17 of those came last season with the Chiefs. The Cowboys also drafted sixth-rounder Deuce Vaughn, but Vaughn’s lack of size at 176 pounds could limit his role — and he’s not even a guarantee to make the opening roster.
So that likely means that in addition to shouldering even more of the offensive load, Pollard also will be asked to take on a leadership role amongst the group with Elliott gone. Pollard said his four seasons playing with Elliott have prepared him for this moment.
“Having a vet like Zeke, for the years that I was here with him, it was a great learning experience to see how you’re supposed to handle things as a vet and the older guy in the room,” Pollard said. “He did a great job paving the way for me and showing me how to lead those guys by example.”
There’s also his contract situation. Pollard was franchise tagged by the team, meaning he will play this season on the one-year, $10.091 million tender and be a free agent again in 2024. It’s not clear if the Cowboys and Pollard’s camp will discuss a long-term extension prior to the July 17 deadline for tagged players, or whether the two sides will table discussions until next offseason.
Either way, Pollard isn’t too concerned.
“I let my agent handle that — do the dirty work — and I just come in ready to work,” he said.
In spite of all the pressures facing Pollard, he views the added heft of this season as a golden opportunity for him and the Cowboys.
“We’ve got a great stable of backs here, but it does feel good when they look at you personally as the lead back in the room,” Pollard said. “I’m just grateful for the opportunity, and I’m ready to make the most of it.”
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