Curtis Martin was the quiet superstar who played under the bright lights of New York and yet could be underappreciated for how great of a player he was . He was drafted by the New England Patriots in 1995 and became a restricted free agent after the 1997 season. Through some shrewd wording in his Negotiations with the rival New York Jets, the Patriots were unable to match the contract offer by the Jets and the Jets were able to get Curtis Martin to start the 1998 season.
In his first seven seasons with the Jets, Martin missed only one game and was selected to the Pro Bowl three times. In 1998, Martin gained 182 yards from scrimmage and scored two touchdowns against the Jacksonville Jaguars in a Jets playoff win. In 2004, Martin rushed for a season-high 196 yards against the Cincinnati Bengals in the team’s home opener and would do so eight more times that season, finishing with 1,697 yards.Martin won the NFL rushing title by one more yard than runner-up Shaun Alexander and became the oldest player, at age 31, in league history to win the rushing title. Martin was named the FedEx Ground Player of the Year and named an All-Pro and elected to his fifth and final Pro Bowl.
In 2005, Martin suffered what was deemed as a strained right knee injury in the Jets’ second game of the season against the Miami Dolphins, when he was tackled by linebacker Zach Thomas. An MRI of the knee was negative and Martin continued to play through the season despite a noticeable drop-off in production, having only rushed for 100 or more yards once the entire season. On November 27, 2005, Martin joined Barry Sanders, Walter Payton and Emmitt Smith as the only running backs to rush for 14,000 yards in their career. By December, the severity of the knee injury began to increase and Martin, despite wanting to become the second player (after Smith) to rush for 1,000 yards in 11 straight seasons, elected to have season-ending surgery, finishing with 735 yards on the season. Martin began 2006 on the Physically Unable to Perform list as the post-operation recovery period took longer than expected though the surgery was considered minimally invasive.By November 2006, despite months of rehabilitation, Martin was declared out for the season with a bone-on-bone condition in his right knee. After re-negotiating his contract to help provide more salary cap room for the Jets, Martin announced his retirement in July 2007 thus ending his career having amassed 14,101 total rushing yards, the fourth highest total in NFL history.
Smallthoughts:Old School Tuesday spotlights…the quiet, the classy, Curtis Martin.
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