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Thread: Curtis Martin-Immortal?

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    Jan 2005

    Curtis Martin-Immortal?


    Curtis Martin

    If you're already the best, how do you get better?
    Curtis Martin pondered that question in the offseason. He captured his first NFL rushing crown last season, amassing a career-high 1,697 yards, but he wasn't satisfied with his seemingly flawless performance. When he reviewed his season, he found an imperfection.

    Not enough long runs.

    Indeed, Martin became the first player in history to surpass the 1,500-yard mark without breaking a run longer than 25 yards. So he returned to the famous staircase along the seaside cliff in Santa Monica, Calif., where he trained before the 2004 season. This time, the Jets' star runner focused on speed work. He didn't run the 200 steps; he sprinted.

    "I ran full speed - or as fast as I could without tripping," Martin said during a break at training camp. "It really gave me a whole other level of conditioning and strength."

    Cynics will say it's impossible for a 32-year-old back, one with 13,366 yards on his odometer, to get faster. The way Martin sees it, it's not a matter of shaving fractions off his stopwatch time.

    "I can run with anybody for the first 30 yards," he said. "I want to be able to maintain my top-end speed over long distances. I want to get more big runs."

    Martin was the oldest back in history to win the rushing crown - no player over 30 ever rushed for that many yards - but it also marked the first time in his 10-year career that he didn't break anything longer than 34 yards.

    In a way, it symbolized Martin's career: There weren't many spectacular plays, but he was spectacularly consistent. It moved him up to fourth on the all-time rushing list and probably secured a place in the Hall of Fame. He can afford to take a bow and fade gracefully into the shadows, but he's planning an encore.

    "I've always had an encore in mind," said Martin, who expects to play at least two more years. "I'm a guy who never lowers his standards. I'm always trying to outdo myself. I'm in as good a shape as I was last year."

    Martin declined to predict a yardage total, but he said confidently, "I don't expect too much to change, personally."

    But the Jets' offense has changed. Coordinator Paul Hackett, who loved to feed the ball to Martin, has been replaced by Mike Heimerdinger. Everyone in camp is buzzing about the new passing philosophy, how the Jets are planning to attack downfield. But how does Martin fit into the grand scheme?

    "I'm not dumb enough to take the leading rusher in the NFL and not give him the ball," Heimerdinger said. "Our head coach still believes in running the ball, so that's not going to change.

    "This isn't going to be the old Raider days of Daryle Lamonica, throwing the ball 70 yards," he continued. "We're going to try to be balanced. I'm not going to forget about No. 28 in the backfield."

    Changes in personnel could have an impact on Martin. He lost two rugged blockers to free agency, right tackle Kareem McKenzie and tight end Anthony Becht. Martin also lost his longtime understudy, LaMont Jordan, an ideal complement because of his power and speed.

    The new backup is former Chiefs scatback Derrick Blaylock, who must earn the trust of Herm Edwards. The Jets signed Blaylock with the idea of giving him a handful of carries per game, but it isn't easy to keep Martin on the bench. "I expect to get the ball as much as last year, especially with LaMont gone," said Martin, who set a career high with 371 carries.

    Martin was offered a day off Saturday; he declined. Edwards presented the same offer yesterday. Same response.

    The sprint is on.
    Last edited by jetsman51; 08-03-2005 at 12:23 AM.


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