Q: How difficult was this decision for you?
Future Hall Of Famer Curtis Martin finally answers all questions about his injury. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
A: It was very difficult. I think what makes the decision harder is when you have time to think about it. First of all, I would like to thank the Jets, the entire organization, from Woody (Johnson) to Eric (Mangini) to Mike (Tannenbaum), Jared (Winley), the media, the entire PR department and my teammates.
I don't want to say dragged out, but it's been a long process. The longer something goes and the more you have time to sit with it, the type of person I am is that I naturally begin to think in reverse of what the obvious outcome should be. At the same time, I believe that that is what has helped my career be what it has been. At some point in time, that very same quality can begin to work against you, and I think that right now I'm catching it right where it was beginning to work against me.
When did you make this decision
A: Last night.
Q: Have you been running on the knee?
A: I've been running. To me it was funny; I think there were a couple of you who saw me the other day. Someone said it was like the spotting a ghost. My goal has been to stay out of your way and the team's way. I did not want to do anything to distract away from this team. So I've stayed as undercover as possible, and then I have done everything that I felt would be necessary for me to get back out on the field, up until last night. I sat in Eric's office, and I said, "Eric, you know what, I just need one last conversation with the doctors." I said, "I even know what they're going to say. I know what the outcome is." But for some reason I just wanted that last conversation.
Q: Where is your speed at this point?
A: My running is good, but it's not what it should be, and I'm honest with myself enough to know that. The thing that I personally feel worried about is I'm an instinctive guy, an instinctive runner. Once I get out there, just like any other time I've been in pain, the pain is not going to matter. What I do instinctively, I'm equipped with the information to know that that's probably going to jeopardize my future as a human being.
Q: What does this decision mean for the long run.
A: You know something, I've spoken to Eric and I asked him if I could be as honest and open ¬¬ well, honest is going to be a given, but as open and as free with information as possible, and he gave me that green light.
I don't know if it's even possible (to comeback). It hasn't been possible up to this point. I'm not looking forward to saying I'm going to definitely be back next year. It's a long stretch, I'll put it that way. That's the most honest answer I can give you.
I usually deal with things the way they are now, and with the information that I know about my future, it doesn't look like it's too bright as far as me having a further career. If that happens, great.
Q: Do you anticipate any further surgeries?
A: That was a large part of my decision. I knew that we could have waited until Tuesday, but I feel as though we've given this enough time. I'm right on that borderline of having to get more done, but there's a possibility that if I stop right now that I may not have to go through those procedures.
Q: After your surgery you were here at the complex a few days later and seemed to be walking on the knee with no problem. What happened between then and the spring to change everything? Did something change for the worst?
A: I don't think that it ever took a turn for the worst. I think it's always been what it has been, but the type of guy I am, the type of history that I have with injuries, we handled it according to that. The only difference is that this is something that's out of my hands. This is something that's beyond my threshold of pain. Do I think I can tolerate the pain and go out there and score a touchdown? Probably. That's just what I believe, but do I think that that's going to possibly hinder me from scoring a touchdown with my kids or running down the field with my kids? Yes.
Some of the things that have happened in my career have been nothing short of miraculous. Some of the injuries I've played with and some of the pain that I've been in, you guys would never realize it. This was one of those situations that it was just totally stupid for me to try that again.
Q: Now that we are speaking freely, it was reported that your condition is bone-on-bone. Is that accurate?
A: That's pretty much what it is.
Q: Did you play with this knowledge for a long time?
A: I played with it all last year. The way that I am is if I have an injury, regardless of how bad it is, I don't want to talk about it during the season unless it's something that I just can't get up and walk or unless my bone is sticking out my leg or something like that, very obvious. I'm going to push myself and stay away from all the distractions because I see them as distractions, all of the talk about how bad something is. I see it as distraction, and I don't like to think about it. So last year what it was, is I really played most of that year, since the second game, with a career ¬ending injury.
Q: Why did you play with the injury last year?
A: Well, because I've played with more pain before. At the end of the day, to you guys, from a logical standpoint, it might not make sense. But to everyone who plays football who actually puts on the equipment and the helmets and goes out there and plays, that's just life for us. That's just the way it is. It's not a matter of being logical about decisions all the time. But I'm at that point now where I have to be logical. I didn't make it worse. With the information that we've been given, after the surgery, it was what it was. Me playing on it, I know I didn't make it better.
Q: Was your condition bone-on-bone when you were injured in week two of 2005?
A: No, that's when the cartilage was torn. That's when the cartilage was torn. The cartilage was still in there, but the cartilage was torn. When we played Baltimore after that, what was amazing is that the exact same kick, exact same place, I got kicked again. I don't know exactly what it did after that, but I know that it felt worse.
Q: Will surgery help this condition?
A: I think this is as good as my knee gets, where it is right now. The doctor told me that I've tried everything. I've said, I know this seems like it's been a long process, but when you're coming to what could be the end of your career, you look at things differently and you approach things as patiently as possible.
Now, if I don't play, that's the thing, if I don't play, they're saying I have a chance to have a normal life. But if I do play, I can jeopardize that. One thing (Bill) Parcells told me, he said, "Son, I know the way you are." You know how he talks. “You're probably going to push this issue until you can't push it no more, and that's what made you successful, but you need to be smart enough to know when to stop pushing.”
Q: Why did you want to come back after such a severe injury?
A: I think that it's the fight in me. I think it's the leader that I am. I think that it's what I stand for, but I also like to stand for trying to be wise, and that's what I'm doing now. Before then it was all about my team, how can I help my team. This is the first time in my career I think that I've had to do something for me.
Q: How did you feel driving home last night after your conversations with Mangini and Tannenbaum?
A: You know something, a part of me felt relieved. A part of me felt relieved because I didn't have to, in this process, every day that I get up. It’s like having to hope all over again that something will change today, something will happen that I'll feel better. After days and months and almost a year now, not too much has changed. I'm pretty good at accepting what is, and that is what I remember saying to Mike as I was leaving his office yesterday was, "You know, Mike, sometimes things just are, and it is what it is."
Q: Is it hard for you being forced out by injury rather than your own terms?
A: You know something, and this sounds kind of fairytale¬ish, but I've always felt a premonition in my mind that when it was time for me to stop, I would know. It would be something that basically forced me, that wasn't crippling. I can walk, and in the condition my knee is in and after what I've been through, knowing that was my last game, I'm grateful.
Q: Do you have any regrets for trying to come back?
A: You know, a lot of people say I don't have any regrets. I can't say I don't have any regrets, but I don't live with regrets, you know. The only thing that I didn't accomplish in my career that I wanted to accomplish, of course, was a Super Bowl ring, a championship. I have literally wanted to get back out this field ¬¬ it sounds modest, but I wanted to build from the practice squad. I almost wanted to go through all that again, and I was so focused on doing that. I told Eric, I want that practice squad “player of the week.” I felt if I could do that, that gave me the opportunity to start competing for the job of running back.
Q: Where do you go from here?
A: I think like a lot of athletes, something that I've never wanted to do was wait until my career was over to figure out what I was going to do, like what my retirement plan was. So since my seventh year in the NFL I started my retirement plan. So right now I'll probably be busier than I am playing football when I leave this building.
Q: Curtis, based on what you are telling us it seems you are retiring. Are you officially retiring?
A: No, I'm officially not playing the rest of this year. Retirement, you know, that may be the inevitable result. I just haven't gotten there yet. It's been a long process just getting to where we're at, the Reserve, PUP. I don't really understand the logistics of all that, I just know it's something I have to do right now.
Q: There was a report that you advised Mike Tannenbaum to select a running back in the 2006 Draft. Is this true?
A: There has been speculation, and I heard about it. But no, and for one thing, what goes on in the front office is like Vegas. It stays there. We all knew my condition. I believe that if I was 100 percent or if I was retired, the decisions that were made here, it would be the same decisions.
Q: What is your best memory as a Jet?
A: That I've made a positive impact on my team and hopefully on this organization.
Q: Do you see retirement as your next step?
A: Like I said, retirement is probably the inevitable outcome. I just have to deal with this right now. I had somebody actually ask Mike, when we turn in the papers for me that say I can't play the rest of the year that I pushed the button that sends those papers in. He said, "Sure." It's taken me a long time just to get there. Retirement is probably the inevitable outcome, but I just haven't gotten there.