Sunday, August 17, 2003

Martin on a tight training leash

By Kit Stier
The (Westchester, N.Y.) Journal News

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. - Curtis Martin has come to realize that his personalized preservation program, the one designed for him by New York Jets coach Herman Edwards, makes sense.

Martin runs on the legs that will carry the Jets to any success they hope to enjoy this season. The veteran running back, who endured a season of misery in 2002, has had his training regimen severely curtailed since the team started its minicamps in the spring.

Edwards invented a stiff neck to explain why Martin didn't play in the team's exhibition opener in Tokyo.

"What are you talking about?" Martin said, grinning, when asked about the neck problem.

Martin played three downs last week, and passes were called on all three.

"It's something I had to get used to," said Martin, who practiced in only one of the two-a-day training-camp drills that ended at Hofstra University on Thursday. "Usually to miss practice is like a player's dream. For me, I'm more of a creature of habit. I'm used to that pounding, pounding, pounding twice a day. To back off, though, I have to admit it has done me a lot of good. It took me some time to adjust to it mentally."

Martin survived the 2002 season. He suffered an ankle injury in the season opener and hurt the other one against Cleveland in Week 7. The pain was so intense, he gained citizenship in the Team Training Room.

Surgery, Martin indicated, was never seriously discussed.

"I don't even know what they'd be looking for," Martin said. "Of course the doctors would have a better idea. There was so much damage all the way around they just said, 'We'll just let them heal on their own.' "

Martin said he's a better man for the pain he endured.

"For instance, having to come here every day of the season, not have one day off, it took me to another level of consistency, of commitment," said Martin, one of only two players to have gained 1,000 yards in each of his first eight seasons. "It was something I had to commit to. It's such a mental drain when you see yourself putting in six more hours than everyone else every day. When the other people get off, it's almost like you begin."

To take some of the pressure off Martin, Edwards opted not to let his prize offensive player have to make decisions about a workload during this camp.

Edwards set the terms of Martin's engagement.

"I think I have a good feel for Curtis now," Edwards said. "I've been around him for three seasons. I get more comfortable with some of the things I can ask him to do. ... He knows that it's preventive, it's for the long haul so he can finish strong at the end. I think he knows that and his mind works that way, too, now."

Edwards said now is the time to start getting Martin into a groove.

"Well, I don't need to get hit to find out where I'm at," Martin said, smiling.

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