Full speed ahead for Felix

Full speed ahead for Felix

CARROLLTON, Tex. - The Dallas Cowboys raised a few eyebrows last year when they selected running back Felix Jones — sometimes referred to as "the other Arkansas running back" along with Darren McFadden — in the first round of the 2008 NFL Draft.

But once he got on the field, he proved the Cowboys knew what they were doing when they chose him, using his speed, vision and ability to make people miss to add a boost of athleticism to the Dallas offense.

But Jones pulled a hamstring, and while rehabbing that injury, suffered a toe injury that ended his rookie season after just six games. What had started as such a promising debut campaign for Jones turned into months of arduous rehab and overall disappointment.

Jones spent the offseason continuing his rehab, and said he just recently felt like he was back to 100 percent.

"I started feeling that way, I'd say, at the beginning of OTAs — getting out here and running on it, really getting into practice and getting to compete against the defense," he said. "I felt pretty good — I felt like I was back to (being) myself."

Getting back on the field — albeit in merely a pads-free practice situation — was the ultimate therapy for Jones, who admitted to being frustrated as he nursed his toe and watched his team from the sideline.

"It felt great," he said. "Not being able to play football for seven, eight months — that's tough on a football player, especially one who loves the game."

Jones is back in gear now, running all drills with the offense and occasionally fielding punts in special teams drills. He appears to have his speed and acceleration back, and has added a few pounds of muscle mass to his once-spindly frame.

Owner Jerry Jones acknowledged Thursday that Felix Jones' burst gives the Dallas offense more options, and said one of the team's goals in the upcoming season is to get more touches for the second-year runner and figure out more ways in which to get the ball in his hands.

One such option, unveiled last Thursday, was the implementation of the "Wildcat" formation (in which a running back or receiver lines up at the quarterback spot, takes the snap and either throws or runs directly off the snap). The Miami Dolphins garnered national attention in 2008 when they ran the formation with running back Ronnie Brown taking direct snaps. More importantly, Felix Jones ran the formation occasionally in college at the University of Arkansas.

"It was great — it brought back old memories," Felix Jones said after the Cowboys' first practice session with the formation. "It's just the first day (using the formation), but I believe we can get a lot better at it. You'll see a lot more of it — I'm hoping so — when the time comes."

The Razorbacks enjoyed a measure of success with Jones and McFadden running the formation, but Jones said the Cowboys' version could end up being even more effective.

"I think it can be even better (than the version he played in at Arkansas)," he said. "We've got a lot faster guys. I'll say this: when the game gets here, you tell me if it's better."

The biggest benefit, he said, is that the formation will allow the Cowboys to get the ball to skill players in unusual ways; when he is on the receiving end, he said, he will get the ball thrown to him in open space, which will allow him to take advantage of his exceptional speed.

"It'll help out a lot," he said. "It'll help me out a lot, and once we get better at it, it'll be one of our weapons.

"I was thinking (the Dolphins) kind of stole that from us (at Arkansas). Once you go out there and see that, you can take a little pride in that. It all started at Arkansas with Darren (McFadden) and I, and seeing it grow so much, you take pride in it."

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