The fans deserve to know the truth about Curtis Martin. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
One day, whenever it may be, I'll find out why the Jets have handled this Curtis Martin situation in such a clandestine way, because itís obvious now that there are no competitive advantages or disadvantages to telling the damned truth about it.
The Jets owe the fans that.
And, since the moment they shocked everyone by mysteriously announcing that Martin was being placed on the physically unable to perform list at the start of training camp, theyíve been short-changing their fans, treating you with no respect.
Martin is the greatest player ever to wear a Jets' uniform and it's very possible we've seen his last run, possible weíve seen the last of him on the field.
That much became apparent on Thursday when Martin addressed reporters for the first time since training camp when he said, " 'Definitely' is not a word Iím going to use. 'Hopefully' is the word that I will use,'' when asked if he's certain he'll begin practicing in two weeks.
Martin was eligible to come off the PUP list and begin practicing with the team this week, but Eric Mangini said Monday the earliest Martin will practice is the week after the Jets' Oct. 29 game in Cleveland.
What makes this mystery so aggravating is that Martin appeared so much on the road to recovery back in December, just days after having arthroscopic surgery on hi right knee. He bounced around the locker room that day in December saying he felt better three days removed from surgery than he had playing the previous 12 games because of the cartilage and particles that were cleaned out of the knee.
So, when the Jets' 2005 season ended, there didnít seem to be a lot of questions about Martin other than his age (33). The surgery, after all, was arthroscopic and not reconstructive and it wasn't dealing with any ligament damage.
Fast-forwarding to mini-camps, when Martin was being rested and not practicing there was little surprise because a veteran coming off any kind of knee surgery doesnít need mini-camps.
But since training camp came and Martin was placed on PUP with no explanation as to whether there had been some setbacks in the offseason, a re-injury or even another unannounced surgery, everyone has been left in the dark and that hasnít been right from the start.
This is, of course, a tricky situation, because anything medical is confidential information unless the patient wants that information public. But this is a public business, where major injuries are unfortunately a part of the business. And I cannot remember any injury being treated with such secrecy as much as Martin's.
Mangini's strict rule is for players not to talk about their injuries (or anyone else's) or they face fines. In the NFL, that's usually a part of not allowing opposing teams to know your business.
Itís unclear whether Martin, who generally doesnít discuss injuries (but usually because he's following rules) would want to clarify his situation or not.
When speaking to reporters, Martin has tried to deliver information as best as he can without breaking Mangini's rules.
The heaviest rumor is that Martin has a "bone-on-bone'' condition in the knee that's not going to get better and that he'll only hurt himself further if he tries to play (provided he's even cleared to play by doctors).
I've covered Martin since he got here in 1998 and he is, quite simply, the toughest athlete with the most amazing pain threshold that I've ever covered in any sport. He, too, has always spoken about injuries with such bravado, as if he can will himself to play through the most painful of injuries.
That bravado was noticeably absent on Thursday when Martin spoke. On Thursday, he spoke of being uncertain whether he can cut or not because he hadnít done it yet. He spoke about being uncertain about whether he'll play or practice again.
That was all a bit unsettling.
Itís ironic that, earlier in the week, Giants' running back Tiki Barber spoke so casually about wanting to retire after this season despite the fact that he's only 31 and in great health.
And here you have Martin, refusing to give it up despite the fact that, at 33, he's a Hall of Fame lock.
For a guy who always said football itself was not that important to him, that it was more a means for him to spread his wealth and good word, the game sure has become difficult for him to et go of.
"I think every NFL playerís dream is to go out on your own terms, but sometimes it doesnít happen like that,'' Martin said when speaking about Barber's public pronouncement.
Asked why, with so much already accomplished in his career, he's putting himself through this, Martin said, "This is my team. This is my job. This is what I like doing. Itís more so than just playing football, this has become a lifestyle, a mentality, of how I approach every day. My job is to be out there as much as I can until my career is over, and that is where my mind is focused.''
Asked what his terms are regarding leaving the game, Martin said, "Iíve always taken the approach that in football, you have to play every play as if itís your last, because you never know when itís going to be your last. Iíve approached my career like that ever since Iíve had enough sense, probably since my second or third year as I matured a little bit.
"So, whenever that time came for me, I knew that I was ready. I knew that I had given my all, and thatís the best feeling I can have: when my career is over, that I left it all on the field, I gave my team, I gave the organization, I gave the media everythingÖ honesty, trustworthiness, character, integrity. Those are the types of things and type of legacy that I want to leave. I believe Iíve worked hard to do that and when I do retire, I donít think Iíll have any regrets.''
Asked if he'll be at peace of that time comes before he has a chance to carry the football one more time, Martin said, "If that ends up being the situation, Iím sure Iíll make peace with it, but until that is a reality, my mind wonít make peace with it. To have peace with that doesnít benefit me right now; I like to keep my drive going the way it is. If that was the situation, then Iíll come to peace with it.
"Iíve become good in life at accepting what is, so if thatís what happens to be the situation, if thatís what they tell me (that he can no longer play), then thatís just my reality.
"If I kick and scream about it, it wonít do any good; it will still be my reality when Iím done kicking a screaming.''
INSIDER PRE-GAME TIDBITS
Things to look for when the 3-3 Jets play the 1-5 Lions Sunday at Giants Stadium:
-Look for Chad Pennington to have a big day against a Detroit passing defense that's ranked 30th in the NFL with and NFL-high 13 touchdown passes allowed to go with only two interceptions. The Lions, too, have allowed the most passing yards (1,584) and highest completion percentage (70.6) in the NFL, along with the highest passer efficiency rating (110.3). Pennington enters the game as the fifth-rated passer in the AFC.
-Look for Lions' defensive coordinator Donne Henderson, who was the Jets' defensive coordinator the previous two seasons, to come after Pennington with some aggressive wrinkles. This could make the Lions even more vulnerable to some big passing plays if handled by the Jets.
-Look for the Jets to force more than one Lions' turnover. Detroit is minus-three in turnovers. The Jets are plus-one.
-Look for the Jets, whoíve been outscored 35-3 in the first quarter and who are without a first-quarter touchdown in 20 games, dating back to last season, to score double-digits points (including a touchdown) in the first quarter Sunday.
-Watch out for Roy Williams, the talented Lions' receiver, who leads the NFL with 552 receiving yards.
-Williams, by the way, virtually guaranteed Detroit victory if Lions' RB Kevin Jones rushes for 100 or more yards. The Jets, who are ranked 28th against the run, have yielded three 10-yard rushers this season.
-Here's a guarantee: If the Jets hold Jones to fewer than 100 yards, they'll win.