Emmitt Smith has a warning for NFL teams: Don't devalue running backs.

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The man who brought as much value to the position as anyone in football history, Smith is the career rushing leader with 18,355 yards. DeMarco Murray, the guy currently toting the ball for the team Smith helped win three Super Bowls, the Dallas Cowboys, isn't faring too poorly this season. Murray has rushed for at least 100 yards in all eight games, an NFL mark, and is on pace to gain 2,000 yards on the ground.

Further proof, Smith says, that the running back is an important cog, even in today's pass-happy NFL.

"That the league has drifted to becoming a quarterback-focused league, the demands for a running back have been neutralized a bit," Smith says. "Everyone wants to get that quarterback.

"But there are not that many Aaron Rodgers or Peyton Mannings or Tom Bradys or Philip Rivers. It's been proven through time that to have success in the NFL, you have to have that balance.

"Look at the teams who have won Super Bowls recently. Seattle last year could run the ball. Pittsburgh, Baltimore. Even San Francisco when you go back, could run the ball. And we could run it. You have to have that running game to win championships."

Smith believes Murray can crack the 2,000-yard barrier, but only if he and everyone around him can stay healthy. That's already in question with quarterback Tony Romo nursing a back problem.

Smith plans to attend the Super Bowl and has hopes the Cowboys will get there for the first time since he helped them win the 1995 NFL title. First, he'll be attending the college football championship at the Cowboys' home stadium, which he calls "Jerry's World."

As part of a contest sponsored by Keurig (www.Tailgate.Keurig.com), fans can win a trip to the game to spend time with Smith — and not just brewing coffee.

"It's a chance for me to engage with the fans up close and personal," Smith says. "We can talk football and anything else they want to talk about."


LYSTEDT LAW: The Brain Injury Alliance of Washington will celebrate this weekend the passage of youth sports concussion laws in all 50 states.

The NFL and USA Football, the governing body for the sport, have played roles in helping get the Lystedt Law passed throughout the nation. Commissioner Roger Goodell will accept the organization's 2014 Leadership Award on behalf of the NFL at a gala in Seattle.

Such laws were inspired by Zack Lystedt. In 2006, Lystedt suffered a brain injury following his return to a middle school football game after sustaining a concussion. Zackery, his family and a broad range of medical, business and community partners lobbied the Washington state legislature for a law to better protect young athletes in all sports.

In 2010, Goodell sent letters to the governors of 44 states that did not have concussion laws urging them to pass something similar to the Lystedt Law. The NFL advocated for the laws until every state had one.

That has happened.

"The passage of the Lystedt Law in all 50 states is an important step for all young athletes and their parents," says Goodell, whose teenage twin daughters have played soccer and lacrosse. "The Lystedts and the Brain Injury Alliance of Washington should rightfully be proud of all that they did to make the nationwide passage a reality. We are honored to support their work to protect all young players, no matter what sport they play.

"We will continue to focus on making our game better and safer and setting the right example on health and safety in sports."

VACATION OR SUIT UP?: The New York Giants cost cornerback Mike Harris a vacation.

A member of the Lions practice squad, Harris was on his way to the airport for a flight home during Detroit's bye week when he got a call that the Giants had signed him on Tuesday.

Vacation over.

Harris changed his plans and planes, went to New Jersey and practiced with the team on Thursday for its game against the Indianapolis Colts on Monday night.

Harris, who spent the 2012-13 seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars and made seven starts in 31 games, is ready to play.

"You have to be ready," Harris said. "You never know when your number is going to be called."

In Harris' case, you also never know where you are going to be when your phone number is called, and what it might cost you.

"I would rather lose the bye week rather than spend another week on the practice squad," he said.

JERSEY REPORT: As the league approaches the halfway point for all 32 teams, who has the hottest-selling jerseys?

Who else but the quarterbacks?

Denver's Peyton Manning, Indianapolis' Andrew Luck and Seattle's Russell Wilson rank at the top according to sales at Dick's Sporting Goods stores. Four other QBs make the Top 10: Baltimore's Joe Flacco is sixth, Carolina's Cam Newton is eighth, New England's Tom Brady is ninth and — even though he is a backup who rarely gets on the field — Cleveland rookie Johnny Manziel is 10th.

Only one defensive player is in the Top 10, Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly at No. 5.

Fifth is Eagles running back LeSean McCoy, and seventh is Bears receiver Brandon Marshall.

The defending champion Seahawks top the team sales chart, followed by Denver, Carolina, Chicago and Baltimore.


AP Pro Football Writer Barry Wilner and Sports Writer Tom Canavan contributed to this story.


AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

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