Dallas Cowboys' C.J. Spillman (37) and Joseph Randle (21) chase a loose ball on a kickoff during the first half of an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Sunday, Dec. 14, 2014, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Matt Rourke
December 17, 2014

IRVING, Texas (AP) Joseph Randle says he goes into every game not really knowing what his workload will be.

So the Dallas running back doesn't really see this week as anything unusual, even if he might be taking the place of NFL rushing leader DeMarco Murray.

The Cowboys don't know if Murray can play Sunday against Indianapolis after breaking his left hand in last weekend's victory at Philadelphia. He had a large cast Tuesday, a day after surgery on his left ring finger, but went through some drills in practice Wednesday with a much smaller wrap.

While Colts coach Chuck Pagano says his team is practicing as if Murray will play, Randle and Lance Dunbar are preparing for a rare moment in the spotlight.

The Cowboys (10-4) are in position to clinch a playoff berth, but facing the possibility of missing the postseason if they lose one of their last two games.

''I feel like I can get the job done,'' Randle said. ''I don't want to let the team down. I know this is a huge game for our season.''

Randle started twice last season when Murray had a sprained knee, but the Cowboys weren't counting so heavily on the running game then.

While Randle is averaging 7 yards per carry in spot duty this year, he had 91 yards rushing on 33 carries - a 2.8-yard average - as the featured back against Philadelphia and Detroit.

''Just have to trust me about getting my job done,'' said Randle, who has 237 yards rushing.

This could be Randle's best shot at redemption since a shoplifting arrest in October that got worse for the second-year back. A booking video showed him making disparaging comments about previous legal trouble for receiver Dez Bryant and defensive tackle Josh Brent.

Bryant was involved in a domestic violence complaint two years ago, and Brent recently returned to the team after a 10-game suspension for an intoxication manslaughter conviction in the death of teammate Jerry Brown.

Not long after police in a Dallas suburb released the video, Randle and Bryant were arguing on the practice field when tight end Jason Witten intervened.

Less than two weeks later, Randle had his most significant play of the season - a 40-yard touchdown run against Jacksonville in London. He also had a 17-yard scoring run on his only carry against Chicago two weeks ago.

''I just think he's gotten more and more confident,'' coach Jason Garrett said. ''Sometimes, that can be challenging when you've been sitting there, sitting there, sitting there watching somebody else play and now it's your turn.''

Dunbar has been waiting since the day of his breakout game for Dallas on Thanksgiving more than a year ago when he had a team-high 82 rushing yards, but sustained a season-ending knee injury in the same game.

During the preseason, it looked as though Dunbar would have a vital role as a change-of-pace back under new play-caller Scott Linehan. But most of his few opportunities have come in the passing game.

''It's been mentally tough,'' said Dunbar, who has 207 yards receiving and just 91 rushing with no touchdowns. ''I'm a pretty mentally tough guy. I can't worry about all those things. If I do then it will affect how I play when I'm out there.''

The Cowboys also face the possibility of being without both starters on the right side of the offensive line in tackle Doug Free and rookie guard Zack Martin. Both have ankle injuries, and Free also has been dealing with a foot problem.

Regardless of who's trying to create the holes and who's trying to run through them, center Travis Frederick says the job's the same.

''It's not as different as you might think,'' he said. ''Because it's really hard for us to be in the huddle and say, `OK, Joseph's in so we need to adjust it this way.' We're not going to do that. We're going to do our job, and he's going to do his job and he's good at it.''

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