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Thread: Second Act
Second ActSecond Act
By Jim ThomasOf the Post-Dispatch
While the others sit in what are best described as school desks, Marshall Faulk has a comfortable, padded chair in the running backs' meeting room. A pillow is placed strategically where the chair back meets the seat.
It's a concession to Faulk's longevity, productivity and stature as perhaps the best all-purpose back in NFL history.
Everything else Faulk has ceded to the youngster - quietly, gracefully and without envy. The transition from Faulk to Steven Jackson in the Rams' backfield could be nasty. But so far, it's been seamless.
"The thing that I can truly say about 28 (Faulk), there's not a person that's ever come in this room that he hasn't gotten along with," running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery said, nodding in the direction of Faulk's vacant chair. "He never looked upon himself as better or greater than anybody that took a seat in this room. He constantly encouraged them to be good. And I constantly encouraged those guys to be like him. ... to reach the heights that he has reached in his NFL career."
Few have reached such heights. As he enters his 12th pro season, Faulk ranks fourth in NFL history in touchdowns (135), fourth in yards from scrimmage (18,545), 12th in rushing yards (11,987) and 19th in receptions (723).
With just 134 rushing yards this season, Faulk will move ahead of Franco Harris into 10th place on the NFL's career rushing list. He has been chosen for seven Pro Bowls, played in two Super Bowls and been league MVP.
But at age 32, his knees aren't getting healthier. His rushing totals and yards per catch have declined in each of the past three seasons. So as Faulk enters the twilight of his career, he seems determined to leave the game with his head held high, instead of being dragged out kicking and screaming.
For starters, he renegotiated his contract in February. It wasn't one of those cosmetic renegotiations, where money is shuffled to lessen that year's cap hit, but the overall dollars remain the same. It was a pay cut: from $6 million to $4 million in 2005, and from $6 million to $2 million in 2006. As a result, the Rams will save $3.5 million in cap room in both 2005 and 2006.
"You've just got to be honest with yourself, and decide where you're at and where you want to be," Faulk said. "I probably can't do all the things that I used to be able to do, just because it's Father Time. It's inevitable. It happens.
"I wanted to stay here. Both sides came up with an agreement, something both of us could live with. And that was it. . . . With what we're trying to get accomplished, I'd not only be cheating myself, but I'd be cheating my teammates if I continued to make the money that I was making and wasn't producing or putting out to the level of payment that I was receiving. That's just me."
As for the change on the depth chart, he has all but embraced the elevation of Jackson.
"I could make it harder. But why?" Faulk said. "The things that I want to do, the things that I want out of the game, and how I feel like I can help this team, are in the role that I see it in right now."
And what is that role?
"I don't want to say anything, or put anything out there as to what that role is going to be," Faulk said. "I'll let the coaches define that as far as how much I'll play, exactly when I'm going to play, and stuff like that. My job is to be prepared that when they look around and say, 'Go ahead, and get in there,' that I'm ready to go."
For his part, coach Mike Martz says he's still working that all out in his head.
"We've thought about it a little already," Martz said. "As the season goes on, that stuff kind of gets itself defined by how (opponents) play defense, and what they're doing. It's not hard to put them both in the game."
Occasionally, they will share time. Occasionally, they will line up in the same backfield. Faulk may have to start some games if Jackson is injured. But basically, Faulk will be a backup for the first time in his career. Jackson's backup.
"Hopefully, through his eyes, the two of us can work together," Faulk said. "Because in my eyes, we can. As a young player, that's the hardest thing. And it'll be a challenge for him.
"When I was young, it was hard for me - working with someone. I had to learn it and understand it, because you need help in this game. It's been a long time since one back's been able to do it all by himself.
"And when you are that one back, and you do it by yourself, it's short-lived. You run into complications with injuries or whatever if you watch the guys that have done it - like myself when it was just me playing.
"I would've loved to have had some help, to sometimes get me off the field, to maybe take a couple plays off, take a series off, and then go back in fresh. So if in his eyes we can work together, it will only prolong and help his career."
As for Faulk, he will go from 60 to 70 offensive plays when he was the starter, to maybe 15 to 20 as Jackson's backup.
"I have to make the most of those plays," Faulk said. "Now, that's the challenge for me. I've always been in the flow of the game, in the mix of the game. So for me to just be on the sideline, semi-warm, to go in there and be ready to produce instantly, I need to almost be better than what I was."
Faulk is as well-prepared for a season as he's been in quite some time. He looks quicker and lighter than recent training camps. For the first time in several offseasons, he didn't have knee surgery, and that allowed him to do more training and conditioning.
"He's got that burst back, he really does," Martz said. "When he sees it, he can hit it and get it. The biggest issue for Marshall at his age right now is you can put him in throughout the game in spurts, and he's going to be fresh and be the Marshall that we know. If you try to play him throughout the game, he's going to wear down, and he'll wear down in the season."
That's not what the Rams want. Even if it's in small doses, they would rather see flashes of the Faulk who set the league on its ear with four consecutive seasons of 2,000-plus yards rushing and receiving from 1998 to 2001. That's a league record, the last three seasons of which came as the centerpiece of the Greatest Show on Turf in St. Louis.
According to Montgomery, there have been times this summer when Faulk does things "that look like the Marshall of '99. . . . He's kind of got that eye of the tiger again. He wants to really get this season off in a fast, furious way. He wants to go out strong."
So although it's now Jackson's backfield, it would be a mistake to write off Faulk in 2005.
Montgomery goes so far as to say, "We will see Marshall more than people realize."
Martz adds: "Marshall's going to have a terrific impact on what we do offensively, that's for sure. When 28 goes in the game, the defense still knows that you've got to account for that guy."
As for those who might overlook Faulk this season?
"Do it," Faulk says, laughing, but with a touch of defiance in his voice. "It's fine."
Reporter Jim Thomas
-08-28-2005 #2Registered User
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- Houston TX
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Re: Second Act
There is no one that has more class in the NFL or in real life than Marshal. He takes less money to play the next 2 years because his role may be diminished. Keep your T O and all the other me me guys. Give me a team of Faulks any day. Thanks Marshal you are:bow: :up: the BEST.
Last edited by HoustonRam; -08-28-2005 at 09:02 AM.
Re: Second Act
I agree 100% with you, Houston. Look up "class act" in the dictionary, and Marshall's picture should be there. I wish him the best this year and next, and hope he retires with no further injuries, but rather a nice feather in his cap of unbelievable performances.
I still think he should be a coach or advisor or something to the Rams when he does retire. The lessons in life, humility, and football he could teach would make him invaluable to us even if he never touched a football again.
of Los Angeles
Re: Second Act
Yup, Marshall is a quality class act. I am glad to have him on the team. I hope Jackson shows him the respect that he has earned.[SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]
Re: Second Act
I just can't wait to see Faulk and Jackson in the same backfield, Faulk still has a major role to play and yes 'he' is a class act..... and role model
Re: Second Act
The Marshall. :football:
What a true privilege it is, for Steven Jackson, to be the Rams starting RB and have MF as the co-pilot of their machine.
:angryram: Best wishes to the Rams 2005 running game, including OL and FBs.
Re: Second ActFor starters, he renegotiated his contract in February. It wasn't one of those cosmetic renegotiations, where money is shuffled to lessen that year's cap hit, but the overall dollars remain the same. It was a pay cut: from $6 million to $4 million in 2005, and from $6 million to $2 million in 2006. As a result, the Rams will save $3.5 million in cap room in both 2005 and 2006.