Jets' Martin wants to play this season despite reports

Updated: August 9, 2006, 7:16 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

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

Running Back
New York Jets

Profile
2005 SEASON STATISTICS
Rush Yds TD Rec Yds TD
220 735 5 24 118 0

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.

Two sources close to 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."

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 season.

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."

But Martin is ancient in running back years, and the Jets seemed to be too stubborn to realize it. Rather than planning for a future without him, they banked on him to be there -- just as he consistently has been for his entire career.

The Jets had a chance to prepare for life without Martin when they had LaMont Jordan for four years. But there was a critical decision to make once the 2004 season ended. They could only afford to keep Jordan or defensive end John Abraham.

They went with Abraham, slapping the franchise tag on him even though they knew they had no long-term plans to keep him. Instead of trying to trade him in 2004, the Jets hung on to him and let Jordan go. Jordan signed a lucrative deal with Oakland. Abraham was traded to Atlanta last March for a first-round pick.

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."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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