The New York Jets' running attack might have a new pilot this season for the first time since 1997.
Two sources close to Curtis Martin told the New York Daily News that the running back talked about retirement before deciding to give it a go for another season, and one of the sources told the newspaper "I'd be really shocked if he came back."
Martin was placed on the physically-unable-to-perform list at the start of training camp after he underwent arthroscopic right knee surgery in December. At the time of the surgery, he said he expected to
start running again in February. He also said there was no ligament
or structural damage.
However, according to several reports out of the New York area, Martin's knee has virtually no cartilage left. "The guy is bone-on-bone on the knee and can't play," a source told Newsday.
The Newark Star-Ledger reported earlier this week that Martin urged the
team to draft a running back in case he was not ready for the
The No. 4 all-time leading rusher has been squirreled away
inside the Jets complex rehabbing his right knee, making it a
mystery when he will play again. Even teammates sound spooked when
asked about how their teammate is doing.
"Curtis? I haven't really talked to him," said fellow running
back Derrick Blaylock. "I really don't know how he's feeling right
Curious, considering coach Eric Mangini said that Martin has
attended all position and team meetings.
Then there is Chad Pennington, who said, "I haven't seen Curtis
that much. I've been going from meetings to eating back to meetings
to rehab. My schedule's been so full, I haven't gotten a chance to
sit down and talk to him."
Martin, with 14,101 career yards rushing, is locked up tight indoors. Last weekend when the Jets had two practices at the Meadowlands, Mangini said Martin made the trip. But once again, he was nowhere to be found. Not even when the team had an open 10-minute autograph session.
Rather than preparing for a future without Martin, the Jets
chose the 5-foot-8 Leon Washington in the fourth round, but he is
undersized and working behind Blaylock and Cedric Houston. None of
the three seems to be the type who can carry the entire rushing
load on their shoulders, so the Jets have put out feelers around
the league for running backs.
One name that has come up is Titans back Chris Brown, who had
his trade request declined. Still, there is no one available now
who is the type of marquee, featured back the Jets want. They had
one in LaMont Jordan, but let him go as a free agent last year.
Mangini has declined to discuss the options at running back, but
said Martin is still providing a valuable service off the field.
"With a guy like Curtis, when they're around the players they
have nothing but a positive effect," Mangini said. "He's done a
lot of work with the younger guys, not just the running backs,
talking about what it means to be a pro, what it means to practice
like a pro, the way to conduct yourself. He has a wealth of
knowledge in football and life the young players can't help but
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.