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  • Faulk's Finest Hour

    Wednesday, December 19, 2007

    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    Stuck in a dire situation, Marshall Faulk found himself in a form of football purgatory in 1998. After five years in Indianapolis, Faulk had reached his breaking point.

    All of the struggles, all of the mistakes and most of all, all of the losses had finally caused Faulk to go to management and seek something better. Faulk didn’t ask much; it wasn’t about the money. He could have had plenty of that from the Colts.

    What Faulk wanted was a chance to win. So when he received word on April 15, 1999, that he was being sent to the Rams for a second and fifth round selection in the upcoming NFL Draft, Faulk was less than thrilled.

    “My thoughts when I first came to St. Louis weren’t good,” Faulk said. “I felt like I was in a bad situation and the situation in St. Louis wasn’t any better.”

    Considering that in his five seasons in the league, the Rams had won 26 games or six less than the Colts in that same time frame. Of course, Indianapolis had gone 3-13 the two previous seasons and appeared headed nowhere.

    But that didn’t mean Faulk was thrilled with his new home in St. Louis. As Faulk watches his No. 28 jersey raised to the rafters Thursday night, never to be worn by a Ram again, it’s hard not to imagine how he went from unhappy all-star to man of honor.

    A MINI REVELATION

    Entering the 1999 offseason, the Rams were faced with the task of overhauling a boring offense that scored so little that the scorekeeper at the Edward Jones Dome felt like the Maytag repairman.

    To that end, the Rams aggressively pursued help on the line and at the skill positions. They signed Trent Green to play quarterback and Adam Timmerman at guard. They drafted young receiver Torry Holt out of North Carolina State and hired a young offensive-minded coordinator in the form of Mike Martz.

    While those moves were a step in the right direction, none had the cache that would really draw the attention of landing a Pro Bowl running back such as Faulk. In the days leading to the draft, the Rams finally settled on a deal and Faulk became a Ram.

    With Faulk in the fold, it appeared the Rams had the foundation for an explosive offensive but it remained to be seen how the pieces would come together. Of course, it would have been impossible for those pieces to fit if Faulk never entered the fray.

    Faulk got to St. Louis without a new contract in hand and wasn’t even sure he wanted to be here. After careful consideration, Faulk decided to give the Rams a shot before he made a decision.

    “I took my time and I thought about it and I think the best thing that I did was I decided to go to minicamp and I got a chance to be around the likes of Isaac Bruce, Trent Green, etc,” Faulk said. “I got an opportunity to see that this team was a team that was full of guys that had the same feeling of being all about the middle part of our career and we felt that why not us, right here, right now?”

    Faulk got a new seven-year, $45.15 million contract on Aug. 4, 1999, and the Rams had their new offensive focal point.

    “If you watched how we practiced and the things we got accomplished in practice, which was different than I had ever done before, you knew that you wanted to be a part of it,” Faulk said. “I knew right off the bat that something was going on here.”

    A NEW LEVEL OF FUN

    In his first year as an offensive coordinator, Martz had grand ideas for all of his new toys, including Faulk. Faulk had already established himself as one of the best dual threat backs in the league, combining tremendous running ability with the pass catching skills of a wide receiver.

    The one thing Faulk hadn’t experienced, at least not at a high level, was winning. In Indianapolis, the play calling generally had Faulk’s name attached to every opportunity. In St. Louis, that all changed.

    In the first five or so games, Faulk barely even touched the ball as he was asked to block for quarterback Kurt Warner so he could disperse the ball to the likes of Bruce, Holt and Az Hakim. Games such as his 11 touch, 44-yard effort in week three against Cincinnati would have angered him in Indianapolis.

    But he paid no mind to something as trivial as that for the simple reason that the Rams were winning.

    “I didn’t give it a thought,” Faulk said. “I had done enough thinking about me. It was time for me to move on and think about the bigger picture as in what am I going to take away from this game? You don’t take records, you take wins and losses and Super Bowls. You take money, everybody gets that, but everybody doesn’t get the opportunity to win a Super Bowl.”

    Faulk soon got more involved in the offense and had a breakout game against Atlanta the following week. The fact that he was a piece to the puzzle rather than the entire puzzle was a welcome respite for someone who had been asked to carry the Colts’ banner almost on his own.

    And Faulk’s presence was felt in more than just the stat lines. Warner’s job was easier with Faulk to hand off to or block for him. The offensive line didn’t have to hold blocks as long because of Faulk’s superior vision and jockstrap-forfeiting moves.

    “He just made my job a lot easier,” left tackle Orlando Pace said. “As an offensive lineman you appreciated that because you don’t have to hold the guy as long and he understands your blocks so it was always a thrill to have him out there.”

    By the time his first season in St. Louis was over, Faulk had earned the right to call himself a Super Bowl champion. He won the league’s Offensive Player of the Year honors for his 2,429 yards from scrimmage (a league record that still stands) and 12 touchdowns.

    To this day, Faulk still calls that entire season his best memory of his time in football.

    “That whole year in which we won the Super Bowl was by far one of the best things ever because no one knew,” Faulk said. “We would play teams where they didn’t know what was going on and they didn’t know because we didn’t know what was going to happen next. They didn’t know what we were going to do and neither did we. It was all uncharted water, guys just going out, giving it their all, competing and it was fun. The amount of fun we had I don’t know if teams have fun the way we had fun.”

    In the next two seasons, Faulk cemented his legacy as one of the greatest running backs in league history. In 2000, Faulk posted a then-NFL record 26 touchdowns on his way to MVP honors. In 2001, he scored 21 times and posted 2,147 yards from scrimmage on his way to his third consecutive Offensive Player of the Year honor.

    Faulk battled knee injuries in the next few years before stepping away from the game officially this year. All told, Faulk ranks ninth in career rushing yards, seventh in rushing touchdowns, fourth in yards from scrimmage and fourth in total touchdowns.

    Although Faulk didn’t get to leave on his terms, he says he has no regrets.

    “The Rams didn’t cut me, they didn’t let me go, they allowed me to make the decision that was best with my knee and my situation and that’s how it was,” Faulk said. “Thankfully I was given that by the Rams. A lot of organizations would kick you to the curb. I was given an opportunity to make the decision that was best for me.”

    ONE OF THE BEST

    Watching Faulk from his home in Las Vegas or as a young running back at Oregon State, Steven Jackson couldn’t help but admire the things Faulk was doing to change the way the position was played.

    Jackson has become a top shelf NFL back in his own right, partially because of the way he watched Faulk work from a far and later when the two were together in St. Louis.

    “I think Marshall is the very reason why the running back position has evolved,” Jackson said. “Being able to run, catch, block and become a franchise guy, he is the epitome of the new age running back and he has done unbelievable things. He was definitely a special gift to the NFL and to the position of being a running back.”

    Quarterback Marc Bulger was little more than an afterthought as the backup to Warner in 2001 when he came to St. Louis.

    By that time, the Greatest Show on Turf was on the back end of its’ terrific run, but Faulk was still cruising along as the best and most complete runner in the league.

    While Bulger wasn’t able to be on the field with Faulk at his absolute prime, he had a front row seat for all of the fireworks Faulk provided.

    “Watching Marshall was something to see,” Bulger said. “Every time he touched the ball you didn’t know what he was going to do.”

    Long known for his ankle breaking cuts or Superman vision, Bulger says Faulk’s best attribute was his brain. As Bulger and Pace tell it, Faulk was like another quarterback on the field. Faulk knew at all times where every player on the field was supposed to be and what each player’s assignment on every play was.

    For that reason and more, Bulger calls Faulk the best player he has ever played with. High praise considering he still works with the likes Bruce and Holt.

    “There are Hall of Famers and then there are guys who you are talking might be the best of all time,” Bulger said. “But with Marshall there is a top three or four and he’s in that with Jim Brown and Walter Payton. I think Marshall is in the top three.”

    FAULK IN THE FUTURE

    For most of his NFL career, Faulk did freelance work for national television networks. He was a natural in front of the camera and could easily break down games and highlight films.

    That made for a natural transition from the field to the studio and announcers booth in 2006. Faulk is even pulling double duty tonight as the analyst for the game on NFL Network.

    “I am enjoying television so much,” Faulk said. “It is without a doubt one of the best decisions that I could have ever made.”

    That doesn’t mean Faulk is married to a television career, though. His ability to evaluate talent and relationships throughout the league make him a natural candidate for a front office position.

    Faulk won’t just blindly throw himself into a job..

    “It’s the right time and the right situation,” Faulk said. “I am going to make sure that the right situation must present itself. I am not just going to take any old job.”

    For now, Faulk is going to take it all in tomorrow night and enjoy his chance to be the first St. Louis Ram to have his number retired at the Edward Jones Dome. Faulk knows he is the first of what could be a large group including Bruce, Holt, Pace and Warner to see his number recorded for posterity.

    While Faulk doesn’t know what emotions he will feel as tonight’s ceremony begins, he does acknowledge there will be an overwhelming sense accomplishment.

    “I really don’t know what my feelings are,” Faulk said. “Getting my jersey retired is definitely a great honor. I will be the first St. Louis Ram to have his jersey retired and I am just not one for accolades and stuff like that, but this one is very special. I am happy to be getting it. I really don’t know exactly how I am going to feel until it happens to be honest with you.”

    Much like he didn’t know how he would feel when he came to St. Louis, Faulk can rest easy knowing this one’s a sure thing.

  • #2
    Re: Faulk's Finest Hour

    We all know the NFLN will have the game, they should cover Marshall big night, next stop HOF!

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Faulk's Finest Hour

      Thanks Marshall, for being a Ram and part of the GSOT legacy.

      Comment

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      • RamWraith
        St. Louis fans might have seen the last of Faulk
        by RamWraith
        By Bernie Miklasz
        ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
        12/24/2005



        If this was Marshall Faulk's final home game, his old friends made sure to mark the moment, this potential passage of time, by saying goodbye to No. 28.

        Wide receiver Isaac Bruce and offensive tackle Orlando Pace, two Rams who have been with Faulk the longest, gave him a hug as a selection of Faulk's career highlights played on the stadium video board at the end of Sunday's 24-20 loss to the San Francisco *****.

        When Faulk came to the Rams in 1999, they were nothing. And he picked up the football and ran to places this franchise had never gone before. The other Rams followed Faulk to two Super Bowls and five trips to the playoffs, and they conspired with him to produce an adventure-ride, thrill-a-minute offense.

        And now as Faulk walked off his home field for perhaps the last time as a Ram, the full-circle aspect of his career came to a close. In blowing a 20-7 lead, the soft Rams allowed no-name running backs to become Jim Brown and Gale Sayers for the day. The loss squished the Rams' record to 5-10, and they are nothing again, just as they were before Faulk entered the building in 1999.

        "If it was his last day here, I'm truly embarrassed," Bruce said. "Because it was an embarrassing game. Embarrassing to Marshall and embarrassing to the city of St. Louis.

        "And if this was it for him here, I want to thank him. I'm a fan of football, and a fan of his, and he's done a lot to extend my career. When Marshall came here he made everyone better. He made his teammates better. He made his coaches better coaches. He put the organization on another level, as far as being a top-flight organization."

        Don't close the door to The Ed just yet. Faulk could return in 2006. If he retires, or if he's released or traded, the Rams would absorb a salary-cap hit of about $4 million. It makes more sense (and dollars) to ask him to continue in a reserve role behind Steven Jackson. And Faulk still has an urge to play.

        "Right now I feel like I do," Faulk said. "But I'm going to sit down when the season's over and make a decision. It's hard to say. I've been playing football for a long time, and it's something that I love doing. To just give you a quick answer after a hard loss to a division opponent, wouldn't even be right."

        Faulk surely must believe he has something to offer a team willing to tap into his rushing-receiving skills. Finishing his 12th NFL season, Faulk has lost speed, and his knees can't physically endure the punishment of handling the ball 20, 25 times a game.

        That said, he isn't John Unitas stumbling around in a San Diego Chargers uniform, or Joe Namath limping to the line of scrimmage for the Los Angeles Rams. Faulk can still play, still go, still make a difference if used properly....
        -12-25-2005, 05:26 AM
      • RamWraith
        Faulk retirement articles and comments
        by RamWraith
        Multitalented Faulk one-of-a-kind in St. Louis

        By Jeff Gordon
        ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
        03/22/2007

        Marshall Faulk is the greatest professional football player St. Louis has ever employed.

        This claim is not meant to disparage the football Cardinals, a proud franchise that sent one tremendous player after another to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Larry Wilson, Jackie Smith, Dan Dierdorf and Roger Wehrli stand among the greatest to ever play their sport.

        It’s a shame they never had a owner who measured up.

        I don’t want to overlook contemporary Rams stars like Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt, Orlando Pace and Kurt Warner -– four other stalwarts from “The Greatest Show on Turf.” At least a couple of those Super Bowl heroes also will be enshrined in Canton, Ohio, some day.

        But Faulk was the Next Level of competition. He was one of the elite talents in NFL history, but that is just the start of his story. We’ve seen a lot of highly gifted football players come and go without making much of an impact.

        Faulk offered so much more.

        TOUGHNESS: He took a beating. He played hurt. He willed himself forward despite needing one operation after another to repair his battered knees.

        Faulk’s career highlight might have come at the end of the difficult 2000 season. With the Rams facing a must-win situation at New Orleans, his hometown, he led the Rams into the playoffs with a remarkable 220-yard, three-TD performance.

        Plowing into the teeth of the physical Saints defense, Faulk refused to let the Rams lose. He single-handedly kept his team alive.

        Faulk and his teammates couldn’t repeat that performance against the Saints in the playoffs, but his stand that afternoon was memorable.

        SMARTS: Faulk knew the “Air Martz” offense as well as Warner did. He knew all the plays. He understood the intent of the plays. He got the philosophy behind them. He studied defenses, too, so he could read them on the field and made adjustments accordingly.

        His command of this revolutionary scheme allowed him to attack defenses every way possible. He lined up all over the field. He often went in motion. His receiving skills matched his running ability. He blocked blitzing linebackers when needed, too.

        In their heyday, the Rams dared opponents to blitz -– trusting their ability to counter-attack, typically by getting the ball to Faulk.

        LEADERSHIP: On the field, Faulk barked out commands and policed his teammates. If a player didn’t get the concept of the “hurry up” offense, Faulk would pick him up off the turf and direct him to his spot in the formation. On the field, he was a second quarterback.

        Off the field, he had maintained his teammates’ respect. If Faulk could take game tapes home for additional review, shouldn’t lesser players do the same?
        ...
        -03-23-2007, 06:07 AM
      • RamWraith
        Faulk will announce his retirement per NFL.com
        by RamWraith
        Just announced on NFL Network.

        Press Conference to be held Monday.

        As always, Faulk knew what he had to do

        By Adam Schefter
        NFL Analyst

        (March 22, 2007) -- For 12 NFL seasons, all the way up until his retirement from the game became official today, running back Marshall Faulk had all the right moves.

        We watched feet that moved as if he were dancing with the stars. We watched hands so dependable, it was as if they were drenched with stick-um. We watched plays that no other running back in the game could make.

        Yet for all the yards he gained, for all the passes he caught, for all the touchdowns he scored, what fans couldn't see was one of the primary reasons -- maybe the primary reason -- Faulk should be taking up residence in Canton four years from now.

        It was what was under the helmet.

        Faulk didn't just have a beautiful mind, he had a football mind.

        Outside of quarterbacks, and maybe even including quarterbacks, there weren't any players any smarter than Faulk. He was the proverbial Smartest Guy in the Room. To this day, his former head coach Mike Martz thinks Faulk might just be the smartest player he has ever coached.

        With his vision and awareness, Faulk understood the game in a way others did not. He knew where each player was supposed to be on each play.

        Especially himself. Faulk knew when it was safe to leave the backfield to go out for a pass, and he knew when he had to step behind to pick up a blitzing safety, as he did in Super Bowl XXXIV, on the play in which Kurt Warner threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to Torry Holt to give the Rams a 16-0 lead.

        Of all his attributes, this was Faulk's greatest: the centerpiece of the Greatest Show on Turf could beat you with his brawn or his brains.

        The same brains that made him so effective on the football field made him a great analyst in his rookie season at NFL Network. He saw things other analysts did not. He made comments few others could. Few have ever started their TV careers with as much success as Faulk had over the past year. He was, unquestionably, the TV Rookie of the Year.

        And now, Faulk has used that same brain to make his latest and last intelligent football decision. Instead of taking another hit, Faulk has dished one out himself. He has informed the Rams, and the football world, that he's retiring.

        Faulk, who grew up on the streets of New Orleans before going on to star in Indianapolis and St. Louis, is smart enough to recognize that this is the right time to go.

        One more time, Faulk is scampering away, unable to be brought down.
        -03-22-2007, 02:34 PM
      • RamWraith
        Faulk talks as though he's retired
        by RamWraith
        By Jim Thomas
        ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
        08/17/2006

        Although Marshall Faulk didn't officially close the door on his NFL career Wednesday, he sounded very much like a man who has played his last football game.

        On the one hand, Faulk wouldn't eliminate the possibility of playing in 2007.

        "The knee is coming along slowly," Faulk said. "I'm taking it year to year. I'm working out. I'm rehabbing And that's it. If it feels good enough to where I can go out there and feel comfortable with what I can do, then fine. If not, I'm fine. I'm OK."

        On the other hand, Faulk spoke of his playing career in the past tense on several occasions, including when asked if he has come to grips with the fact that his career might be over.



        "I've come to grips with that a long time ago," Faulk said. "I gave myself five years (in the NFL), then I gave myself 10 years, and I ended up playing 12. I've been fortunate."

        Faulk answered questions Wednesday in a conference call to promote his hiring by NFL Network as an analyst. It marked his first comments about his continuing knee problems and the probable end of his NFL career since it was confirmed four weeks ago that he needed more knee surgery and would not play in 2006.

        Exploratory surgery at the end of July revealed that Faulk needed a reconstruction of the posterior cruciate ligament in his knee before he could play again. Faulk said Wednesday that he has yet to decide whether to have the surgery.

        "I'm going to take the next two to three months and rehab this thing and see how it goes," Faulk said.

        If he decides on surgery, Faulk said it will be done "not just for football, but for life."

        After dominating the league at his position for the better part of a decade, Faulk said it hasn't been easy making a definitive decision on his football future.



        "Your emotions get in the way, and your love for the game gets in the way," said Faulk, 33. "What I'm trying to do is just be smart about it. And understand that your body is the ruler. It'll let you know. You only get one to live in. So I have to take care of it the best that I can and do what's best for myself when it comes to that."

        Despite months of speculation about his future following the 2005 season, Faulk said he didn't make up his mind about sitting out this season until the week before training camp.

        "I knew that my knee just wasn't responding the way that I wanted it to," Faulk said. "I was a little down. But I was realistic about it. I knew that there was no way possible for me to play on the leg the way it was at the present time."

        No one in the Rams' organization expects Faulk back in 2007. He is still being paid by the...
        -08-17-2006, 05:22 AM
      • RamWraith
        Faulk plays a realist in his new role
        by RamWraith
        By Bill Coats
        ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
        Saturday, Nov. 19 2005

        Marshall Faulk broke into hearty laughter when told that in Joe Vitt's
        estimation, he had the makings of a great coach.

        "I don't know, man," Faulk said, shaking his head. "I don't rule anything out.
        You never know when you're done what you're going to do to combat those
        competitive juices."

        The intensity of those feelings has gripped the New Orleans native for almost
        three decades. "I've played football since I was 6," Faulk said Friday in a
        rare one-on-one interview. "I've put a lot of hours in, a lot of hard work and
        learned a lot of lessons playing this game."

        Now, at age 32 and with 11 1/2 NFL seasons in his rear-view mirror, Faulk peers
        down the road. He ruminates often over how much longer he'll play. "All the
        time," he said. "All the time."

        Faulk came to training camp in top shape mainly because of a surgery-free
        offseason. "I wasn't rehabbing anything; I was just working out," said the
        5-foot-10, 211-pound San Diego State product. "It allowed me to come back
        fresher and feeling better than I've felt in maybe the previous three years."

        He also arrived with a different assignment. Shortly after last season, Faulk
        and coach Mike Martz agreed on a new approach: Let Steven Jackson, the team's
        first-round draft pick in 2004, take over as the No. 1 running back. Faulk
        would have a "significant supporting role" and perhaps extend his career, Martz
        explained.

        Faulk, who also took a significant pay cut to free up salary-cap space for the
        team, was coming off his least productive season since 1996, his third year
        with Indianapolis. He rushed 195 times for 774 yards and caught 50 passes for
        310 yards in 2004. He scored four touchdowns.

        "You understand the circumstances, and you understand what you can and can't
        do. And that's the reality of it," Faulk said. "You have to come to grips with
        that part of your life, not just in football but in life, and accept that."

        The turning point

        A cathartic episode in 1998 helped cement Faulk's ardent team-first attitude.
        He had piled up 267 yards for Baltimore, but the Colts lost 38-31 after Faulk
        blew a route and Peyton Manning's last-minute pass was intercepted.

        Coach Jim Mora lit into Faulk during the team's tape review the next day.
        Afterward, Faulk slipped into an assistant coach's office and dissolved into
        tears.

        "I was crushed ... I mean, crushed," he told Sports Illustrated. "I knew ... I
        had let my teammates down, and I knew I never...
        -11-20-2005, 08:20 AM
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