IRVING, Texas — Sammy Morris was home in New England, settling into the role of husband and father.
The running back with 11 seasons of NFL experience was still working out after being cut by the Patriots at the end of training camp, but had resigned himself to the idea that he had played his last game.
Even after watching Cowboys rookie running back DeMarco Murray break his right ankle last weekend, it never really crossed Morris' mind that he might get another chance. Not until the 34-year-old Morris got an unexpected call from the team coached by a former teammate.
"It's been 12, 13 weeks and I was kind of just getting into the mode of officially being done," Morris said. "I kind of just assumed that I'm going to ride into the sunset. ... I had all but said I was done just in my mind. But it didn't turn out that way."
When Murray had surgery and went on season-ending injured reserve this week, the playoff-chasing Cowboys (7-6) needed another running back to go with the suddenly solo Felix Jones. Phillip Tanner was put on injured reserve last week with a hamstring injury.
Before playing for the Patriots the previous four seasons, Morris spent three years in Miami with Jason Garrett, now the Cowboys head coach. They were teammates in 2004, Garrett's final season as a player before being part of the Dolphins' offensive coaching staff for two seasons.
Morris played in all 16 games in 2010 for New England, where he was primarily a backup at running back and fullback who contributed on special teams, like he has most of his career. He was among the last cuts this year for the Patriots, who stuck with rookie running backs Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley.
"Sammy's been a good friend and it was a pleasure for me to play with him," said Patriots receiver Matthew Slater, who is their special teams captain. "I'm just happy to see him there and I'm sure he's more than capable of getting it done."
Morris has played in 141 career games for Buffalo (2000-03), Miami (2004-06) and New England (2007-10). The former Texas Tech running back has 2,955 career yards rushing with 26 touchdowns, and has 161 catches for 1,245 yards and a score.
"He's certainly the right kind of guy in the role that he's had in his career," Garrett said. "He's done it really as well as anybody, he's been a backup running back, backup fullback, and when he's had opportunities to carry the football or catch the football, certainly he's been able to do that. ... We're fortunate to get him."
After getting in town in time for Tuesday's walkthrough practice, Morris practiced Wednesday. There is a good chance he plays on Saturday night at Tampa Bay.
"Certainly he has to understand our terminology and how we call things," Garrett said. "I think he's certainly familiar with the concepts that we use. ... He's a veteran player, he's played in different systems. We have to get him up to speed as quickly as we can, and then we have to make the evaluation as to what he's able to handle if he does have to play in this game."
Morris figures his relationship with Garrett surely played some part in the Cowboys signing him, and said there are some "bits and pieces of the offense" from their days in Miami that have been incorporated in Dallas.
"It kind of makes the learning curve a little quicker," Morris said.
The last regular season game for Morris was in New England's finale last Jan. 2 against Miami, when he had five carries for 18 yards. He started the Patriots' final preseason game Sept. 1, though he didn't have a carry or a catch before being cut two days later.
"I was working out, but obviously not football workouts like I guess I wanted to do," Morris said. "How ready do I feel? I don't even know how to put that into words. ... I'm excited, it's a good opportunity and it was completely unexpected."
AP Sports Writer Howard Ulman contributed to this report.