HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (Sept. 19, 2005) -- Jets running back Curtis Martin has played through ankle injuries, torn ligaments, even an injured tailbone.
Can he play through pain again? Martin strained his right knee against the Miami Dolphins and his status is uncertain for the Sept. 25 game against Jacksonville. Coach Herman Edwards said that Martin was undergoing an MRI and would wait for the results before determining whether the back can play.
Martin, who led the NFL in rushing last season, was injured in the first quarter but stayed in the game and finished with 72 yards on 31 carries.
"We don't know where he's at," Edwards said. "He's been a guy that's always answered the bell. We'll see where he's at."
Losing Martin would be a huge blow for the Jets offense, especially since both fullbacks also got hurt. Starter Jerald Sowell and B.J. Askew have sprained right ankles. If Martin can't play, Derrick Blaylock would start.
On top of that, starting safety Erik Coleman had surgery on his right thumb, which was fractured and dislocated against the Dolphins. His status also is up in the air. If he can't play, Oliver Celestin would start.
The 32-year-old Martin has been one of the most consistent running backs in NFL history, and one of the most durable. He has missed four regular-season games in his 11-year career, and only one with the Jets -- in 1998, when he was inactive against St. Louis with a thigh injury.
In 2000, Martin injured the medial collateral ligament in his knee in the season opener, then ripped the muscle away from his tailbone later in the season. He kept playing and ended up with 1,204 yards. In 2002, Martin played most of the season with injuries to both ankles.
He came into 2005 hoping to become the first back in league history to start a career with 11 straight 1,000 yard seasons.
"It's always been a comfort zone knowing you have 28 (Martin) behind you," quarterback Chad Pennington said. "I've seen him play with two sprained ankles, I've seen him play with an MCL, I've seen him play with a tailbone muscle ripped off his tailbone, I've seen a bunch of different things. I had no idea he was hurt. I had no clue, you won't hear a word from him."
Martin got hurt on the first drive of the game, when he was tackled on a second-and-goal by Zach Thomas and was slow to get up. Then in the second quarter, he took another shot to the knee following a 9-yard run.
Edwards said he had no idea Martin was hurt until the next morning.
"It's tough but you learn that when you sit in this seat," Edwards said. "Every day you come into work, there's five things you put on your desk that you don't really like but you have to deal with. They don't cancel your games, they don't allow you to get a bye. We have to prepare our team this week."
Edwards sounded pessimistic about Martin when he was asked about Blaylock, who has two carries for 14 yards this season. When asked about Blaylock's limited playing time, Edwards said, "This week he didn't run a whole bunch. Right now it looks like he's going to run a lot."
But with Martin, one never knows. His play has been so important to the team, especially with Pennington struggling early in the new offensive system. The Jets went into the season wanting to emphasize Martin and the run, and that probably won't change no matter who carries the ball.
His teammates are hoping for the best, especially with a tough stretch of games looming against top defenses. After Jacksonville, the Jets have Baltimore, Tampa Bay and Buffalo.
"We all know Curtis is a tough guy," guard Pete Kendall said. "He's going to play if he can play. It wasn't like our jobs could have gotten much harder anyway with these defenses coming up. It's going to be a tough mountain to climb regardless."