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Unheralded RB Marcus Murphy ready to make a name for himself

There is no replacing LeSean McCoy.

Buffalo Bills running back Marcus Murphy knows that, even if he’s asked to try Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

"I know I have a role in this offense, just like everyone else,” Murphy said Wednesday after practice. “I can't be Shady. You know, Shady is Shady. I just try to do what I can to take care of my role. When I get the call, I know what to do.”

How often Murphy gets that call Sunday will depend on McCoy’s health. The Bills’ best offensive player sat out practice Wednesday, with coach Sean McDermott saying his star running back is day to day with an ankle injury suffered in Week 17 against the Miami Dolphins.

“He’s a fierce competitor, Bills coach Sean McDermott said of McCoy. “He’s hard at work, maximizing the treatment opportunities to get himself to where he can play.”

McCoy, who one day might make it to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, topped 10,000 career rushing yards earlier this season. Murphy has 41 career yards, all of which came in the Week 17 win over Miami. A former seventh-round draft choice of the New Orleans Saints in 2015, he played in 16 games the past two years, mostly on special teams.

“He made a big play against the Panthers when I was there in the special teams phase on the return unit,” McDermott said, referencing a 74-yard punt return for a touchdown in 2015. “He’s been out there before, and I thought he handled himself well this past weekend.”

If McCoy is out, Murphy figures to share carries with veteran Mike Tolbert. They combined for 80 yards on 14 attempts against Miami.

"It was special," Murphy said. "I didn't really know what to expect. That was really my first game playing as a running back since my rookie year. And this is year three, so I kind of went into the game with no expecations. I just wanted to come out and take advantage of every opportunity."

The Bills are Murphy's fourth team this season. After being released by the Saints in July, he spent time on the practice squad of both the New York Jets and Indianapolis Colts before coming to Buffalo.

“It's been pretty tough, you know, just learning all the different offenses, being in different cities, different teams, different environments, but you just have to buy in,” he said. “Wherever you are, you have to go hard, give it your all … and just be ready to play when you get the opportunity. That's what I did here.”

Murphy signed to the Bills’ practice squad in early November and was promoted to the 53-man roster last week after Travaris Cadet suffered a broken ankle against the Patriots in Week 16.

“I've been on practice squad, but I've been approaching every week with the mindset that I may have the opportunity to play,” Murphy said. “So with that mindset, you know, you just stay ready, stay focused. The time came and I was able to execute.”

Murphy put himself on the NFL radar in 2014, when he rushed for 924 yards, caught 28 passes for 212 yards and had 785 return yards as a senior for Missouri, scoring eight total touchdowns. He was elected first-team All-Southeastern Conference and was named the SEC's Special Teams Player of the Year. He left the Tigers second in school history with 5,112 career all-purpose yards, behind only Jeremy Maclin. Despite that, Murphy dropped to the seventh round of the 2015 draft, partly because his size – 5-foot-9 and 195 pounds – worked against him.

"I've always been underestimated, but that really didn't have anything to do with me and my mindset and the way I picture myself," he said. "I know I'm a playmaker. I know I can contribute. It's just being in the right place. I'm a hard worker, I come out, I pride myself on taking advantage of each opportunity. Regardless of what they say, I just wanted to come out and show everybody what I had."

He just might get that chance Sunday, on the biggest stage of his young career.

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