Martin not washed-up after all

For all those who thought Curtis Martin was washed-up after the first four games of the season, ask yourself one question. <p>

How do you like him now?

Martin, who has rushed for eight straight 1,000-yard seasons, has come on of late, gaining 100 yards in three of his last four games.

For the year, Martin has rushed for 746 yards on 178 carries, for a 4.2 average per carry.

Barring something unexpected, he is on pace for a ninth-consecutive season of at least 1,000 yards on the ground.

"I feel that we are getting the running game clicking," said Martin. "And I feel that is almost like long overdue. It is something where it has been coming around and coming around.

"It has been getting better with each game. I hope we just keep building on that each game. And each game is better than the last."

If the running game has been steadily improving from week to week, then it took a quantum leap last Sunday against the Colts, when Martin rushed for 105 yards on 13 carries, for an average of 8.1 yards per carry. That is his highest average of the season.

The ninth-year pro from Pittsburgh came under heavy criticism early in the season, after four consecutive sub-par performances to open the 2003 campaign.

In those games, he gained only 197 yards on 61 carries, or an average of 3.2 yards per carry.

His early season numbers left fans and media wondering if he had anything left in his 30 -year old legs.

However his play over the last month has proved the doubters wrong.

Martin's numbers of late have been more reminiscent of the player that has been selected to four AFC Pro Bowl teams, and has more rushing yards over the past six seasons (7,308) than any other active running back in the NFL.

In his past four games against the Colts, Raiders, Giants and Eagles, Martin has run 80 times, for 384 yards, that averages out to 4.8 yards per carry.

"(Our running game) has been pretty good," said Herman Edwards on Friday. "I think Curtis is coming back and running like we anticipated him running."

To those who know Martin well the assumptions that he was ‘washed up and beginning to show his age,' at the beginning of the season were ludicrous.

"We play in New York and critics are harsh up here," said Kevin Mawae. "What really matters at the end of the season is when you sit back, and reflect on what you did, and what you have accomplished. He is still the same guy he was (before 30)."

Now Mawae, one of Martin's lead blocker's for the past six years, wants to get him to that 1,000- yard mark.

It is one challenge the All-Pro center looks forward to meeting over the final six weeks of the 2003 NFL regular season.

"Getting Curtis his ninth consecutive 1,000 yards rushing season is part of (what we want to do)," said Mawae on Friday after practice. "(If we can get him to 1,000 yards), you know that you have done something pretty positive.

"Our goal is to keep him running (well). We are only a couple hundred yards short of 1,000 right now. Our goal is to get him over 1,000."


WR Santana Moss (ribs) probable was limited in practice this week, but according to Edwards he is going to play, and should be fine. RB LaMont Jordan (hand) has a broken finger and will wear a cast on his left hand during the game. He is listed as probable. If Jordan cannot carry the ball, a decision that will be made prior to the game on Sunday, rookie FB B.J. Askew would be backup tailback to Martin. Either way Jordan should be able to play on special teams.

CB Donnie Abraham (shoulder) is listed as probable, and could see as many as 25 snaps. Abraham will play in the nickel and man the left corner spot on third downs, with Ray Mickens moving to the slot in the nickel formation.

DE John Abraham (groin) is listed as probable and will be used on passing downs. He should have a positive impact on a defense that was exposed against Peyton Manning and the Colts.

S Sam Garnes (groin) is listed as probable and has practiced all week. LB Quincy Stewart (knee) is probable and S David Young (hamstring) is out.


Last year's starting DT Josh Evans will make his 2003 season debut on Sunday against the Jaguars.

Getting Evans back should be a boost to a run defense that ranks last in the NFL. According to defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell, Evans was his most consistent player on defense at the end of last season. Evans will most likely be worked back into the lineup on third downs, but if the run defense is giving up big plays early, expect to see more of him on first and second down.

"I think getting Josh back brings a lot of energy to our defense," said defensive end Shaun Ellis. "Especially against the run."

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