FRISCO, Texas -- Between splitting time with Ezekiel Elliott his entire career and suffering a fractured fibula in the Dallas Cowboys' season-ending NFC divisional round playoff defeat at the San Francisco 49ers in January, there were external doubts about Pro Bowl running back Tony Pollard's ability to be the workhorse for head coach Mike McCarthy's offense. Those questions existed, given those factors, despite Pollard producing a career-high 1,378 scrimmage yards and 12 total touchdowns. He topped 1,000 rushing yards for the first time, and 75% of his scoring was on the ground with nine rushing touchdowns. His 5.9 yards per touch led the NFL among players with at least 200 touches in 2022 while Elliott's 3.9 yards per touch were dead last in the league among players with at least 200 touches last season.
Through two games this season, Pollard and the Cowboys have backed up their words with actions when it comes to making him " ": his 48 touches in 2023 are tied for the most in the he NFL through two games with San Francisco 49ers Pro Bowl RB Christian McCaffrey. Pollard still feels he's in great shape despite his league-leading workload.
"Well, I'm feeling pretty good," Pollard said after practice Wednesday. "I have been trying to stay on top of it, stay ahead of it, ice tubs doing the treatment, massages. So, I'm good right now."
His body maintenance routine hasn't really changed much as the Cowboys bellcow back, he's just simply doing more of it.
"Just doing a little more of everything, you know, doing a little more massaging, doing a little more ice tub treatment," Pollard said. "It [the ice tub] helps you get your blood back circulating. I like to do a contrast, hot and cold. That shock to the body helps get the blood flowing back to your body. I did it in college, but I got heavier on it in the pro's. Watching the vets [like Elliott] come in, how they went about their day, the routine guys like that [follow], so just taking notes from those guys."
The increased regimen matched his volume Sunday in the Cowboys' 30-10 victory over the New York Jets when he tallied a career-high 25 carries that went for 72 rushing yards, 2.9 yards per carry in addition to 37 receiving yards on seven receptions.
After any games, but especially games like the one in Week 2, Pollard starts feeling the bumps and bruises later that night.
"I felt pretty good," Pollard said talking about what he felt after his 32 touches on Sunday. "I was a little banged up just from the hits, but other than that, I was good. A few bruises. That night of the game is when you feel that."
Not only is Pollard more involved as a ball-carrier, but also as a blocker. In McCarthy's "" offense, running backs are "always involved" in pass-protection. That's an area many cited when attempting to make the case for Elliott to out-snap Pollard as recently as 2022, but it's also an area where McCarthy went out of his way to give his new RB1 flowers on Wednesday.
"Tony definitely understands power angles, understands fits," McCarthy said. "His chipping, B-Gap, C-Gap and A-Gap awareness I think is outstanding. Tony will stick his nose in there. The chip he had last week's game… was exactly what you're looking for. It's a clinic tape situation. The running back group has put a lot of extra time into that this year. They're off to a good start through the first two games."
While Pollard blocks like he lives to pulverize pass-rushers, his actual enjoyment for that part of his job responsibilities is what you would think: "I enjoy it [pass-protection] just about as much as everybody else."
Cowboys RB Tony Pollard on his career-high 32 touches vs. the Jets:— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) September 21, 2023
“I’ve been saying this for a long time, whatever they give me, whatever they call, I got it. I feel like (Sunday) was a great example of it.”
Does he enjoy pass protection?
“I enjoy it just about as much as… pic.twitter.com/IiDvFveSzP
What a successful run game looks like in Mike McCarthy's eyes
Pollard would prefer to have a higher yards-per-carry in the Cowboys' upcoming game at the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, but McCarthy doesn't care as much about efficiency in the run game. The Dallas play-caller is looking to pound opponents into submission.
"You beat them up: one or two yards [a carry] in the first quarter, two or three in the second quarter, three or four in the fourth quarter or four or five and then you bust the door open," McCarthy said. "It's an attitude. It's an emphasis to finish with how you do it and the things you're trying to get done. I think that's what it needs to look like. Statistically, we go through a lot of win-loss statistical evaluation in terms of down and distance, runs where you get of at least four yards, when you get into the red zone… that's our statistical approach. Attempts is probably one of the most important statistics for running the football. When your attempts are up, good things happen."
Arizona's defense showed it can be worn down in the second half. Just a week ago at home against the New York Giants, a team the Cowboys pummeled 40-0 on the road, the Cardinals surrendered a 21-point, third-quarter lead, 28-7, in a 31-28 defeat. They allowed nearly 300 more total yards, 277 to be exact, from the first half (81 total yards) to the second half (358). No matter how many carries McCarthy is willing to give him in Week 3 and beyond in order to permeate the Cowboys' ideal run-game attitude, Pollard is ready and waiting.
"Yeah, I mean I've been saying this for a long time now," he said. "Whatever they give me, whatever they call, I got it," Pollard said. "So I feel like that [25 carries against the Jets] was a great example of it."