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Is Curtis Really Done?

By Mark Cannizzaro
JetsInsider.com Head Writer
November 30th, 2005
Is this man ready to hang it up? Don't bet on it. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
Is this man ready to hang it up? Don't bet on it. (Jets Insider.com Photo)

Jimmy Johnson, one of the 16,437 talking heads on sports television these days, had these misinformed words to say about Curtis Martin during a Fox broadcast this past weekend:

"Curtis Martin is done.''

This was one of the astute on-air observations by Johnson, who was speaking about USC star running back Reggie Bush.

Johnson as an NFL head coach was known as one of the best talent evaluators in the game, and that makes his comments so surprising.

It's borderline absurd that Johnson could he make such a blanket statement about an all-time great running back, who's not only:

>>> A year removed from winning the NFL rushing title.

>> On a team which lost its top two quarterbacks in the third game of the season.

>>> On a team that has not only lost two starters for the season, but has only one starting offensive lineman still playing the same position he started the season at.

>>> On a team that is so offensively challenged, particularly in the passing game, that opposing defenses have been able to stack the line with eight and more players to stuff the run knowing Martin is the team's best player.

>>> Playing with a right knee that is so sore (and possibly has a ligament tear in it) that he might have to have off-season surgery.

Wonder if Johnson would have so freely torched his own former great back Emmitt Smith as being "done'' on national television?

Likely not.

Martin is not done. Has he perhaps lost a half step somewhere along the way in his 32 years? It's tough to truly measure, because he's never had breakaway speed, but it's likely.

Still, though, remember how "done'' everyone thought he was after the 2002 season, when after having 100-yard rushing game in the first nine games, he had four in the last seven to scrape himself over 1,000 for the season (a career-low 1,094 to be exact)?

Martin was supposed to be "done'' in 2003, too, when he failed to have a 100-yard output until seven games into the season. He finished with 1,308 that year.

Herman Edwards said it best about Martin when he said, "You don't bet against Curtis Martin.''

Martin, even after aggravating the knee injury early in the game, looked pretty spry on several runs against the Saints in a 91-yard output, most particularly on the 23-yard run that put him over 14,000 yards for his career.

Martin's pursuit of 1,000 yards this season to make him the only player in NFL history to rush for 1,000 or more yards in each of his first 11 seasons in the league is the most important torch the Jets are carrying this season with five remaining games and Martin needing 294 more yards to accomplish such an historic feat.

"He's really kind of been a poster child of a true professional, that really is a team-orientated guy,'' Edwards said of Martin. "A lot of times he doesn't get the credit he deserves. He doesn't have a nickname, he doesn't slam the ball, he doesn't do a dance.

"He just makes yards. He's made them for a lot of years. He's on his way, obviously, to be the first player since the start of his career to rush for maybe 1,000 yards and 11 years in a row. No one has ever done that in the history of pro football starting out. So that's a big accomplishment for him personally, and it would be a great accomplishment for this football team and for the guys that are on this team.

"We talked about it. I told them about it. We've got a couple goals down the road here _ to win some games, obviously, for our players to get better and, obviously, for Curtis Martin to set this record. I think it's important, and it's important for football and it's important for this football team.''

It might actually make Jimmy Johnson munch on his words a bit, too.

One of the most unsightly things in sports broadcasting these days is the utter lack of accountability. People blurt out whatever they feel like saying to get attention and never have to be held accountable for their words.

Johnson should be better than that.

Martin definitely is.

INSIDER EXTRA POINTS

Edwards was funny early this week when asked about his "reaction'' to "speculation that Martin might be at the end of line.''

"Well, that's always speculation,'' Edwards said. "I learned my lesson about speculation about two weeks ago, so I'm not going to speculate on speculation. I learned a valuable lesson on that. I'm not going to comment on speculation. I just think when Curtis decides to retire, it will be on him and when he decides to stop running, it's going to be on Curtis Martin.''

Edwards was, of course, referring to his words being interpreted in 16 different directions when he spoke about his future coaching the Jets, something that caused about a week-long stir before team owner Woody Johnson finally put an end to the speculation.

****

Edwards and Colts' head coach Tony Dungy have been best of friends since long before Edwards even coached on Dungy's staff with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Usually, Edwards talks to Dungy on an almost weekly basis, even during the season. Not this season, though. Edwards, whose Jets have had perhaps the worst luck in the NFL this season, has avoided speaking with Dungy, whose Colts are 11-0, because he doesn't want to spread any bad Karma Dungy's way while his team remains undefeated.

"Our wives talk all the time,'' Edwards said. "But I haven't talked to Tony since early in the season, around the time our quarterbacks got hurt.''

****

Edwards was adamant with his praise of the 35,000 or 40,000 Jets fans who showed up at Sunday night's game.

"The fans that showed up, they were very, very enthusiastic and it was good to see that,'' he said. "I think we've got some good fans, after what we're going through this year, they are used to winning like we are used to winning, but they came out and supported us.

"They were very, very vocal, and that's good. Even on the road. We go on the road and we see a lot of our fans at the hotels, and they have been very, very supportive of this football team in the circumstances we're facing right now, so that's always good to see and good to he

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