Curits Martin will be back next year for the Jets and will again be a big part of the offense. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
Here's an early prediction regarding the makeup of the 2006 Jets: When their starting lineup is announced for the season opener, when the offense runs from the tunnel in that first game next year, their starting running back will be wearing No. 28.
It'll be Curtis Martin.
That, by the way, won't be such a bad thing.
If you listen to the hordes of experts who've surfaced in light of the surgery Martin was to undergo on Wednesday, you get the impression that having Martin return as the Jets' feature back in 2006 was akin to a Roger Vick resurfacing.
Why are we all in such a hurry to bury athletes, particularly our stars?
Is it because we want to tout ourselves as being the first to have the story?
Understand this, Curtis Martin is not done. No story has been broken yet about the end of his career, whether it be as a Jet or anywhere else. There are more chapters to be written in Martin's career.
Can we not be so quick to forget that Martin is the fourth-ranked running back in NFL history?
Can we please remember that Martin, at age 31, is a mere one year removed from winning the league's rushing title with a career-high 1,697 yards?
What is it going to take for people to understand that Curtis Martin is not your every day NFL running back?
Outside of being bionic, Martin is one of the most unique and special athletes ever to grace an NFL lineup.
Herman Edwards has said it best about Martin when he's said, "Don't bet against Curtis Martin.''
Edwards is not a betting man, but he himself has been fooled by Martin before. As much as he loves Martin and has a special bond with him, Edwards thought Martin might have lost too many steps early in 2002 and early in 2003 when he struggled.
Martin proved everyone wrong, in both cases proving that his issue in both of those cases was injury-related.
That's been the case all this season, as evidenced by Martin finally shutting it down before Sunday's game.
To a large degree, Martin has been a victim of his own legendary pain tolerance and refusal to miss games despite the most excruciating of pain. He's played in a lot of those games when he was hurting badly and his numbers reflected those times.
Had Martin been one of those diva type stars and kept himself out of games with aches and pains that might hinder his performance, his numbers might be even better than they are now, which are more than enough to send him to the Hall of Fame.
Sure, Martin will be a 33-year-old back coming off right knee surgery next season. That doesn't mean he's done, and it doesn't mean he might still not be Edwards' best choice at running back.
The Jets, after all, played themselves out of the Reggie Bush stakes (more on that in a moment). Whether or not they opt for Memphis running back DeAngelo Williams, believed to be the second-best RB in the draft, is unknown.
Outside of a top-flight draft pick, who do you think is coming here to unseat Martin?
Even highly-placed sources inside of Weeb Ewbank Hall have told us that if Martin is back he'll either have to beat out someone else for the job and/or play in a more limited role.
Unless you tell me who's coming here, I'll believe Martin will be beaten out by someone other than a top draft pick when I see that player other than Martin emerge from the tunnel next September as the starter.
Cedric Houston is not going to make Martin a role player next year. Nor is B.J. Askew, Derrick Blaylock or anyone else on the Jets' roster.
Would the Jets like _ and do they need? _ an explosive running back who has the potential to score a touchdown on virtually every carry?
The question is, now that Bush is likely headed to either Houston or San Francisco, where is that explosion back coming from?
Look for Martin, who's never been about money, to renegotiate his contract, because he's due to count $8.1 million on the 2006 salary cap. It would be a shock to see the Jets simply cut Martin, which would make for a $6.2 million savings on the cap if it's done after June 1, but crazier things have happened.
I say don't be shocked to see Martin remain in New York, which he should, and remain as the starting back in 2006.
Now, back to Reggie Bush.
There has been a sentiment for weeks amongst Jets fans that they'd prefer the Jets lost the rest of their games to give them a shot at the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, which would be the special and explosive Bush.
That contingent, has been beside itself since the Jets beat the Raiders on Sunday to improve to 3-10 while the Texans fell to 1-12 and the 49ers to 2-11.
The thought amongst those people has been, "Typical Jets. Even when they win they lose.''
We understand this to a degree and would love to see Bush here, but understand this about professional athletes and particularly Herman Edwards: It's impossible for them to try to lose.
For Edwards, he'd leave the game forever if it came to his owner telling him to throw a game.
And for athletes, it's human nature to want to _ and try to _ win every time they play.
"We work too hard around here trying to win games,'' Edwards said.
"I appreciate the Jets fans, and I understand why they would like to get a player that they think (can help), say Reggie Bush or Matt Leinart," Jets' center Pete Kendall said. "But as players, we're auditioning 16 Sundays a year, and a season like this, there tends to be quite a bit of turnover. So I'm not playing to lose so that we'll be a much better team next year.
"If I continue to play to lose, I won't be a part of this team next year. I think that's probably a pretty universal thought in this locker room."
Trying to win games is human nature for professional athletes. You simply cannot try to lose, not when losing hurts the way it's devastated the Jets this season.
"This is a credit to the team, to their perseverance,'' Edwards said of the win Sunday. "After what we have gone through this season (the injuries and seven consecutive losses) it was good to get a win. I'm happy for the players and the staff. It shows something about character.''
Losing games on purposes, or even trying to do so is not a measure of character.
"We're not going to win the Super Bowl this year, but I don't know that there'll be much difference between how we feel (right now) and how teams that have nine wins feel,'' Kendall said after the Jets' win over the Raiders. "I know when we come to work Wednesday, the guys will have a better mindset. It's only human nature.''
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