- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 29, 2012

If the so-called rookie wall is in front of Alfred Morris, he doesn’t see it. He doesn’t feel it. His legs seem fresh. His muscles feel good. Mentally, he is sharp.

As the calendar turns to December this weekend, Morris, the Washington Redskins’ starting running back, recognizes no evidence to support the notion he will wear out while playing the longest schedule he has ever experienced.

“I was built for this,” he said. “I was made for this. It’s just the truth. I can take a lot of beating. I don’t think I’ll ever meet the rookie wall.”

That’s reassuring for an offense that will count on him Monday night in a pivotal divisional game against the New York Giants.

Morris enters the game needing 18 rushing yards to reach 1,000 for the season and 81 to break Reggie Brooks’ 19-year-old franchise rookie rushing record of 1,063.

That would exceed the most ambitious expectations for the sixth-round pick out of Florida Atlantic.

“It would mean a lot,” Morris said. “I didn’t think I was going to even see the field until the fifth, sixth game. For that to happen would be an honor, especially with such a storied franchise. I’d be thankful and still be humble.”

That mindset has helped Morris get to this point.

He was open to advice when he arrived at team headquarters for the first time last spring. Veteran running back Tim Hightower, who was released at the end of the preseason, emphasized to him the importance of taking care of his body.

That was a significant change for Morris.

“In college, you couldn’t pay me to get in the cold tub,” he said.

Now, he is in the hot or cold tub after practice each day. He uses the popular foam roller to loosen tight muscles. He gets massages every week.

“It’s not a pleasure massage,” he said. “Those things hurt, but afterwards you feel a lot better.”

The results are clear to coaches.

“He’s been good all year — I think that’s been the most impressive thing about him,” offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said. “He has never hit a rookie wall. He runs so hard, and I have never seen him wear down at all. He keeps grinding on everything.”

He is making an impression on the rest of the league, too. Opponents loathe how difficult it is to tackle him.

“When he runs, there’s nothing to hit,” Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith said last month. “It’s shins and shoulder pads.”

The Giants sure remember him. He rushed for a season-high 120 yards against them in Washington’s 27-23 loss at the Meadowlands on Oct. 21. It was one of his four 100-yard games.

Giants defensive end Justin Tuck said Morris reminds him of former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jerome Bettis.

“That’s generally, as far as their strength and just being a load to bring down,” Tuck said. “I think he has great vision. Obviously, he’s a strong back that’s going to put a lot of pressure on you. He falls forward and gets 3 yards just from his head of steam. You have to play him pretty perfectly in the running game to be successful.”

Sustaining that level of play means staying fresh.

Morris played extensively in three preseason games and has started all 11 regular-season games. He never played more than 12 games in a college season.

With his new appreciation for taking care of his body, he hopes to play more than the 16 games on the regular-season schedule.

“There’s still a lot of work to do,” Morris said. “Rushing for 1,000 yards doesn’t mean anything if you’re not in the postseason, if you’re not winning. That’s what I care about.”