Attitude Needs No Adjustment

IRVING, Tex. - There are certain attributes that are expected in first-round draft choices: otherworldly athletic ability. Highlight-reel playmaking ability. Tackles that turn bones into sawdust.

On the surface, there's a lot to like about the Cowboys' No. 1 draft choice, running back Felix Jones. Yes, he's fast. He can catch. He can make people miss in the open field. He has a nose for the end zone.

But perhaps Jones most important attribute is his mindset … his demeanor … his attitude.

While many Dallas fans clamored for the Cowboys to select Illinois running back Rashard Mendenhall, who went a pick later to the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Dallas braintrust chose Jones. Running back certainly wasn't the team's biggest need, with young Pro Bowler Marion Barber ready to take over the lead role in the Dallas running game, but Jones was deemed a perfect fit.

The Dallas scouts liked more than Jones' physical attributes, and owner Jerry Jones liked more than the fact that Felix Jones played at Jerry's alma mater, Arkansas. He's an exceptional kick returner, and with the exit of Tyson Thompson, that is a major need in Dallas. He's a tough, physical runner who is willing to block and contribute on special teams. He has good hands coming out of the backfield. After sharing the backfield with Heisman Trophy candidate Darren McFadden, he isn't likely to whine about touches while Barber gets most of the carries.

"I've had to work for everything I've got," Jones said. "I just kept it until I got older. At Arkansas, I had to run behind the Heisman runner-up.

"My dad always had me work with him every day around the house. I worked every day, and I still work every day."

When facing the media, Jones seems more like a seventh-round draft choice just glad to have a chance than he does like a first-round pick who soon will be able to own a huge house and a fleet of luxury cars. His smile fills the locker room, and when it's pointed out that he was drafted in the same round as a mini-camp visitor named Emmitt Smith, he laughed sheepishly, staring at the ground.

"I felt energized" when Smith stopped by practice, Jones said. "I'm just ready to step out on the field and play."

Jones' ability to share the backfield at Arkansas surely will assuage any fears about collecting more running backs to go along with Barber and Jones: Dallas also drafted Georgia Tech's Tashard Choice and signed Maryland's Keon Lattimore.

"It's football, and we're all competitors — we all want a lot of carries," Jones said. "But we're teammates. When it comes time for the game, we're all about winning."

Barber and Jones need not worry about making the roster this year, and Choice surely has a leg up on the third running back position. It's not unusual for a running back taken in the first round to join a team thinking he already is the primary ball carrier, but that's not Jones. He seems convinced that the biggest reason the Dallas backfield will be successful will be the ability to mesh the styles of the different runners.

"(Barber) is a bruiser, a hard runner — he's a great football player. I'm going to learn a lot from him," Jones said. "Tashard is a bigger guy — he's got a little power behind him. I'm different from either one of them. Put us together, and we could be pretty good."

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