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Martin maintains he wants to play this year

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (Aug. 9, 2006) -- Jets running back Curtis Martin reiterated he wants to play this season, but is unsure when he will be able to return.

The NFL's No. 4 all-time leading rusher said he is working out every day so he can come back as quickly as possible, and is hopeful he can play in the season opener Sept. 10 at Tennessee. But he made no guarantees about when his injured right knee will allow him to resume his career.

"I'm working out as hard as I can," said Martin, resolute as always. "I'm here every single day and probably up here longer than most of the other players because I'm doing extra work. ... I don't know how long it will take me. All I can do is keep working the way I'm doing."

Martin was placed on the physically-unable-to-perform list July 27, the day before training camp opened. He initially got hurt last season and underwent surgery in December to clean out his knee. At the time, Martin thought he would be able to start running again in February.

But the injury has taken much longer to heal. Because Martin is known for his ability to play through pain, the move to put him on the PUP list came as a mild surprise. Since then, reports have surfaced that he urged the Jets to take a running back high in the draft, has considered retirement and has virtually no cartilage in his knee.

Instead of dismissing the reports, Martin declined to comment on them. About the only thing he was willing to say was he hasn't had any additional surgery.

"I'm trying to do my best to be as good as I could possibly be and be back as soon as I could possibly be back," Martin said. "I just don't know everything. I don't want to spend a lot of time trying to clear up rumors that I have nothing to do with, or that didn't come out of my mouth, that came out of somebody else's mouth or something somebody else made up."

Martin, who never discusses his injuries, did say, "I'm not worried about retirement right now. I'm worried about the same thing I've been saying, working hard and getting to my best ability."

The 33-year-old Martin is going into his 12th season in the league. He has 14,101 career yards rushing and won the 2004 NFL rushing title. He went into 2005 with high hopes but they ended in Week 2, when he got hurt.

Martin kept going, possibly doing more damage. He ended up playing in 12 games, broke a streak of 119 consecutive regular-season starts and ended his string of 10 straight 1,000-yard seasons to start a career, a record he shares with Barry Sanders.

When asked why he wanted to keep playing, Martin said, "Because I still feel like a young man."

Now the Jets are stuck with Derrick Blaylock and Cedric Houston, neither of whom are every-down backs. They drafted a running back in April, but waited until the fourth round to take undersized Leon Washington. There also is the possibility of trading for a bigger-name player.

But they still have plans for Martin, who is around the team as much as possible.

"He's been to every weigh-in, every mandatory dinner, and every curfew. He's doing everything we ask him to do," coach Eric Mangini said.

Though Martin is hopeful he can return, he put no timetable on his recovery.

"I don't usually do well with timetables and scenarios like that. You do your best and when you're ready, you're ready ... Time will tell," he said. "I don't know exactly what will happen, but I'll keep preparing to be at my best."

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