Tony Pollard, the Dallas Cowboys new " " in the words of head coach Mike McCarthy, said he's ready to be done practicing on a "reduced tempo" -- also in the words of McCarthy -- and that he will be ready to practice fully come training camp in Oxnard, California, at the end of July. The fifth-year running back said Thursday that his rehab from a gnarly ankle injury in the Cowboys' NFC divisional round playoff loss at the San Francisco 49ers in January is "ahead of schedule."
"I would say I'm not really limited at this point," Pollard said Thursday, via ESPN. "It's just being smart with it, just trying to work my way back in slowly and make sure I'm in tip-top shape when I get out there so it's not a fall off."
What Pollard's reduced tempo has looked like in organized team activities is participating in walkthroughs with the first-team offense. The plan won't change for next week's mandatory minicamp.
The speed for Pollard's recovery can be credited to undergoing a "Tightrope" operation instead of a surgical procedure that involves having screws put into the tibia and fibula for a repair. A cord, rather than a rigid surgical screw, is applied to restore the original position of the bones and to allow for proper healing in the "Tightrope" process. The fractured fibula Pollard suffered during the injury is now healed as well. The 26-year-old running back who is playing on the franchise tag maintains he feels better than ever after going through his injury recovery.
"Honestly I feel faster," Pollard said. "I mean we got great trainers. Working with [director of rehabilitation Britt Brown] on the bands, I don't know for how many months we've been going since the season was over, I just feel like I got a lot of juice in me left. For the most part it's pretty much, I look at it as the same thing, the way I come in for work, day in, day out, give my all, work hard and just let the rest take care of itself. But I'm definitely ready for the opportunity."
Pollard earned the first Pro Bowl selection of his career for his efforts during the 2022 season with bests in rushing yards (1,007), rushing touchdowns (nine), carries (193), receptions (39), receiving yards (371), and receiving touchdowns (three). It was a new workload for Ezekiel Elliott's former backup, as he became a co-starter in 2022 while readying to be the guy in the Cowboys backfield in 2023 with Elliott being released. Pollard's backfield mates are now the undrafted Malik Davis, 2023 sixth-round pick Deuce Vaughn and journeyman Ronald Jones.
"I would say just being more aggressive in my offseason, training," Pollard said when asked how he is preparing for the biggest role of his career. "It really wasn't much of an offseason. I had the injury in the playoffs, surgery two days later and since then I've been doing treatment, training, just trying to make sure I'm back ready to go for the season. So just attacking the offseason a little harder."
The offseason hasn't been anymore difficult for Pollard in his eyes, even though he and the Cowboys front office are on the clock until July 17 to agree to a long-term contract. If they don't, he earns $10.01 million fully-guaranteed on the tag with the prospect of free agency next offseason.
"For right now, I'm just letting my agent and the ownership handle that and just focus day by day coming in doing what I have to do," Pollard said. "I'm never just satisfied to where I feel like I did enough. I feel like every year I can get better. I can improve in different areas in my game and just over time see where it takes me."
Pollard's 5.9 yards per touch led the NFL among players with at least 200 touches in 2022, but he still had 16 fewer touches than the declining Elliott, whose 3.9 yards per touch was dead last in the league among players with at least 200 touches last season. San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey totaled 1,880 scrimmage yards, 502 more than Pollard's 1,378, while ranking second in yards per touch (5.7) behind the Cowboys rusher. (McCaffrey had 97 more touches than Pollard (329 to 232).)
If Pollard can maintain a similar yards per touch average on a higher workload, he should be able to fetch one of the bigger running back contracts of the last few years next offseason.