Cowboys' Murray realizes a dream in 14th season

January 29, 1994|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Staff Writer

ATLANTA -- Everybody knows that when the Dallas Cowboys lost the second game of the season to the Buffalo Bills, they didn't have running back Emmitt Smith.

What has been overlooked is that they didn't have kicker Eddie Murray, either.

The 0-2 start forced owner Jerry Jones to put money on the table to sign Smith.

It also persuaded coach Jimmy Johnson that he had to find a replacement for Lin Elliott, who missed field-goal attempts of 49 and 30 yards against the Bills.

Johnson brought in eight kickers, including Murray, who was cut by the Detroit Lions in 1992 and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in training camp, for a tryout after the Buffalo game.

Murray won the tryout and went on to make 28 of 33 field-goal attempts, including eight between 40 and 49 yards.

His overtime, 41-yard game-winner against the New York Giants in the regular-season finale gave the Cowboys home-field advantage in the playoffs and a virtual ticket to the Super Bowl. He calls it the biggest kick of his 14-year career.

"I've never really been in a situation where I've had to make a kick to win the division and have home-field advantage and have as much laying on one kick as that one was," he said.

It set up an All-Canadian kicking duel in the Super Bowl. The Bills have Steve Christie, who's from Oakville, Ontario, and Murray is from Victoria, British Columbia.

It also has given Murray a chance to prove he can still kick at age 37.

"I'm the first person to admit that it's a young man's game," he said. "I've been extremely fortunate to play the amount of years ++ that I've played and I feel very grateful for those years."

But he said there's a natural tendency for coaches to think a kicker loses it as he ages. After 12 seasons in Detroit, he was released in the spring when the Lions drafted Jason Hanson.

"People put limits without actually letting the person show that they still have the ability to kick," he said. "Sometimes you reach a certain age so [they say] you can't do it any more."

In Detroit, he said he was never given a reason for his departure, although the drafting of Hanson made it obvious the Lions wanted a younger kicker.

In Tampa, he said coach Sam Wyche at least told him he wanted to try a young kicker, Michael Husted.

Murray kept working out, hoping he would get another shot. The Cowboys called after the Buffalo game, and now he's in his first Super Bowl.

"I had some thoughts about never making it to this level," he said. "It was a thought, but that wasn't the only motivating drive that I had to continue playing. I just had a tremendous desire to continue to compete at this level.

"It's one of those situations where if you still have the desire to keep playing and someone is going to give you the opportunity to keep kicking I'm going to keep showing up."

Murray said he was watching on TV three years ago when Scott Norwood missed the 47-yarder in the final seconds, denying the Bills a Super Bowl victory against the New York Giants.

"When they showed the television shot from the end zone before he kicked, I thought, 'He's lined up too far to the right,' " he said. "That's where the kick went."

Murray knows the frustration of missing a big kick in the playoffs. He said the worst miss of his career was a 43-yarder at San Francisco in 1983 that cost the Lions a chance to play in the NFC title game.

"I used it as a learning process because there was a wind condition at the game," he said. "I aimed the ball outside the goal posts and the wind didn't bring it in. I learned not to do that anymore."

Was it hard to put it behind him?

"I put it behind me," he said, "but, unfortunately, the media kept bringing it up all the time."

NOTES: Cowboys DE Charles Haley (back) took the majority of snaps with the first team and Johnson said there's a "possibility" he will start tomorrow. It was the first time this week Haley participated in the drills. . . . Dallas put QB Brock Marion, TE Joey Mickey, WR Tim Daniel and OT James Parrish on the inactive squad to cut the roster to 49 and will add three more tomorrow. Johnson said he would prefer to dress all the players. "This may be the biggest game of some of these players' lives, and I've got to tell them no," he said. "I want to be able to change that rule."

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