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Martin's run comes to an end


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Martin's run comes to an end

Jets finally win, but miss star

BY RICH CIMINI

DAILY NEWS SPORTS WRITER

About an hour before yesterday's game, Curtis Martin walked into the Jets' trainer's room, dressed in a black sweatsuit, not in his usual football armor. John Abraham did a double take.

"Curt, this don't even look right," Abraham told the hobbled running back. "It don't seem right that you're not in pads right now."

No, it didn't.

For the first time in seven years - since Oct. 11, 1998 - Martin missed a game. He watched from the sideline at a frigid Giants Stadium, looking and feeling like a naked gladiator in his own Colosseum. Not one of the 45 players in uniform for the Jets' 26-10 victory over the pathetic Raiders had ever seen Martin in street clothes for a game.

This crazy, rotten year finally claimed the heart of the Jets. His season, the most trying of his Hall of Fame-caliber career, is over.

Martin will have arthroscopic surgery this week to repair cartilage damage in his right knee, which had grown progressively worse since it was injured in Week 2. The club made the announcement before the game. He will be the 12th player to land on injured reserve.

So ended Martin's ironman streak of 119 consecutive games. So ended his historic pursuit of 1,000 yards. He finished 265 yards short of becoming the first player to rush for 1,000 in each of his first 11 seasons.

"If that keeps him out of the Hall of Fame, it should be called the Hall of Shame," sniffed Herm Edwards, who made a collective decision with Martin late in the week to keep him out of the game.

Actually, the Jets lost two running backs on the same day - Martin and Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush. By snapping a seven-game losing streak, the Jets (3-10) almost certainly took themselves out of the Bush sweepstakes. They trail the Texans (1-12) by two games in the "race" for the first draft pick.

Conspiracy theorists wondered if Raiders owner Al Davis, out of hatred for the Jets, tried to ruin their "chances" of landing the top pick by ordering Norv Turner to start Marques Tuiasosopo over Kerry Collins. Tuiasosopo was so bad that he suffered as many sacks (six) as vowels in his last name.

Tuiasosopo didn't get much help from LaMont Jordan, who, in his ballyhooed return, looked sluggish and managed only 49 yards on 14 carries. Afterward, he complained about not getting enough chances. Evidently, Jordan, who spent four seasons as Martin's understudy, didn't learn the part about being a gracious loser.

It was billed as Martin vs. Jordan, but maybe it was fitting that it didn't happen. The Jets never could figure out a way to get them both on the field at the same time, so nothing changed. They delighted in shutting down Jordan, but the mood was tempered by Martin's absence.

Martin said he felt like a "fish out of water," reduced to watching as Cedric Houston and B.J. Askew combined for 129 yards.

Brooks Bollinger, whom Edwards referred to as Crazy Legs Hirsch, ran for 56 yards - a team record for a quarterback.

"I always say I like to try to play until it's just stupid to play," Martin said. "This week, I knew I was coming up along those stupidity lines."

Martin revealed that, for only the second time in his career, he took a painkilling injection last week to play in New England. That, he said, "started raising eyebrows, including my own." He said he would have needed another injection just to practice last week, when it started to become apparent among his teammates that he wasn't going to make the game.

The rushing record, he said last week, was important to him. Yesterday, Martin downplayed it, offering this poignant assessment of his physical condition: "If we started from the 1 and the Raiders said, 'We'll give you the 100 yards, Curtis, no tackling,' I don't think I'd have been able to do it."

Martin, whose contract will have to be renegotiated for him to return next season in a reduced role, said he has no intention of retiring.

To their credit, the Jets beat the dysfunctional Raiders (4-9) with fourth-string and third-string runners. They got four field goals from Mike Nugent, a 20-yard touchdown catch by Justin McCareins (on an apparent blown call by the officials) and a 2-yard run by Houston.

So the Jets won, but they lost their most accomplished player.

"Whenever I look on offense for one guy to keep me going and keep me feeling like it's worth playing," Abraham said, "it's Curtis."

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He's had a solid career, but not spectacular.

Said it before-compiling is not dominating. Which is why Art Monk is not in the Hall of Fame yet. I suspect Martin will face the same fight-he'll get in, but only after a while, not his 1st shot.

The NFL Network has all these video bumpers of great performances, and among the ones that stand out is Riggins going crazy vs. the Dolphins in the Super Bowl. And during the Skins run in the 1980s, he did this a lot-basically taking his team on his back late in a game and running it down an opponents' throat. Martin's comparables on the all-time list-Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton, Franco Harris-all had big days in big games. Cannot say that about Martin. He's simply not in their class, stats be damned.

There aren't any such moments for Martin in a JEts uniform. I don't care if he is #4 all time in yards compiled, he's rarely been great, just very good and workmanlike. And all the BS flowing out of Hofstra doesn't change that. There's something to be said for a guy that shows up every day and gives his all. But Martin's big days rarely if ever coincided with big games with the Jets.

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3 thought about this:

1. memo to herm - the sky didn't fall with curt out of the game, it is possible to hand-off to other players.

2. what the hell was he doing on the field for the last few games? he could barely move but was taking the ball 20+ times when the jets had 2 perfectly good backs on the bench.

3. for all of the cmart bashing that goes on here, he truly is a class act and i would like to see him finish his career at full speed. i wonder if he could have done anything this year if he wasn't hurt.

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