ST. LOUIS (Feb. 16, 2005) -- Marshall Faulk is about to begin the second phase of his career -- as a backup.
St. Louis Rams coach Mike Martz said that next season Faulk, the NFL MVP in 2000, will be a change-of-pace running back behind Steven Jackson. Jackson was the Rams' first-round pick in the 2004 NFL Draft and the two essentially shared first-string duties last season.
Faulk helped the Rams go to two Super Bowls in a three-year span from 1999-2001 and was the first player in NFL history with four consecutive seasons gaining a combined 2,000 yards rushing and receiving. But he has been slowed in recent seasons by numerous knee operations. His last 1,000-yard rushing year was 2001, and last season he totaled 774 yards and a 4.0-yard average to go with 50 catches for 310 yards.
In each of his past two seasons, the 11-year veteran has had his lowest rushing totals since 1996.
Jackson, the first running back taken in the 2004 draft, had 673 yards and a 5.0-yard average.
Martz said sharing the position last season will allow Faulk to enter training camp essentially injury-free, and his best value to the team might be as a receiving threat.
"It gives him the best opportunity to go in there and have a terrific impact on the game," Martz said. "Because now you've got him unencumbered, so to speak, where he's fresher throughout the game.
"Then you've got the young guy who is the big physical guy who carries the load, so I think it's a terrific 1-2 punch."
Jackson alluded to the move during the playoffs when he mentioned the Rams were in the process of "passing the torch" from Faulk to him. Martz said Faulk had no problem with making this transition.
"Marshall was probably ready to do that during the season," Martz said. "He's so excited for Steven; he really is. He wants to be there for Steven and help him and still have his role."
Faulk is in the final year of his contract, and Martz believes being a backup could extend his career. He has missed 12 games over the past three seasons.
"How long this is, I don't know," Martz said. "We'll see how this year goes."
Jackson missed two games with a bruised knee, an injury the Rams believe was caused by the rock-hard artificial surface at the Edward Jones Dome. The Rams are trying to get the dome landlords to install a new rubberized surface for next season to protect their investment in Jackson and others.
Faulk is fourth on the career touchdown list with 135 and 12th in rushing with 11,987 yards after passing O.J. Simpson and John Riggins last season.
Martz also said Jeff Smoker, a sixth-round pick last year, would be the backup quarterback behind Marc Bulger. Chris Chandler was the backup last season. Smoker was the third quarterback and had no game action. But Martz said he did a good job of picking up the system.
"He's really progressed," Martz said.
The Associated Press News Service