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Running backs must make the most out of thier time

John Clayton Article

It's often said that the NFL stands for Not For Long. No player knows that better than a running back. Those who play the position, certainly live on the edge. RBs come into the league knowing they will be lucky to have six good years. Their life span is so much shorter than that of an offensive lineman or quarterback.

News that Curtis Martin's career is all but over because of a bone-on-bone condition in his knee officially ends a great era of running backs. Jerome Bettis retired after going to the Super Bowl last season. Marshall Faulk may retire after the season because of bad knees. The odds are against Priest Holmes coming back from his back and neck problems. Tiki Barber sparked controversy by announcing he's going to retire after the season, even though he's still in his prime...

...Normally when a league loses stars such as Martin, Faulk, Barber and Bettis in such a short period, you'd worry about the sport. No need to worry. The league is loaded with good running backs.

This year's draft offered a good crop -- Reggie Bush, Laurence Maroney, Joseph Addai and DeAngelo Williams. Teams got steals in the latter rounds with Leon Washington of the Jets, LenDale White of the Titans and Maurice Drew-Jones of the Jaguars. The Broncos may have gotten the ultimate steal with Mike Bell, who was undrafted.

What I wonder is whether these players will get the opportunities Martin, Faulk and Bettis enjoyed. Half the teams have shared backfields of some sort. That should prolong the longevity of running backs, but may not allow a back to reach 14,000 yards like Martin.

Other than LaDainian Tomlinson, who has 8,017 yards at the age of 27, and maybe Larry Johnson, if can keep pounding out 1,500-yard seasons, how many of the current backs could last 11 years and gain 14,000 yards?