- Israel hits symbols of Hamas rule; scores killed
- Mississippi abortion law can’t be enforced
- Teacher who survived Sandy Hook has book deal
- Jury awards Jesse Ventura $1.8M in case vs. ‘American Sniper’ author Chris Kyle
- Middle Eastern firm’s deal to manage U.S. cargo port raises security concerns
- Bob McDonnell’s defense: Lonely wife developed ‘crush’ on CEO
- Chinese hackers stole ‘huge quantities’ of sensitive data on Israel’s Iron Dome
- House Republicans unveil bill to speed deportations of border children
- Californians protest middle school for hiring white man to teach cultural studies
- Killer’s sentencing overturned because mother couldn’t find seat in courtroom
FENNO: Longevity on Alfred Morris’ mind as Redskins bruiser prepares for second season
Question of the Day
Among the sea of Porsches and jacked-up trucks and Land Rovers in the player’s lot at Redskins Park is a humble, oh-so-ordinary 1991 Mazda 626.
That’s Alfred Morris‘ ride. No chrome wheels. No bumping bass. No deeply tinted windows. No custom work. Walk past and the car is difficult to miss among its highbrow neighbors because of its jaw-dropping normalcy.
If nothing else, the car is dependable.
That’s much like Morris. There’s little flashy about the former sixth-round pick, on or off the field. Results are what matters, yard after record-breaking yard.
Morris, of course, rolled up a franchise-best 1,613 yards on the ground in his rookie season. The temptation is to imagine what Mike Shanahan’s most recent late-round discovery can do for an encore.
But the limited shelf life of top-flight running backs, even unexpected ones such as Morris, was worth remembering as minicamp wrapped up Wednesday afternoon. This job wears out bodies. At 24 years old, Morris is rapidly approaching middle age for an NFL running back. Yes, middle age at a position where players are discarded from the league by 28 or 29.
“The average life of a running back is, what, two or three years?” Morris said. “There’s no longevity in that. We have a pretty physical position. Every down you’re running, pass-blocking — even faking, sometimes you’re taking hits.”
Take the six other running backs to top 1,000 yards under Shanahan. Terrell Davis was out of the league at 29. Olandis Gary done at 28. Reuben Droughns at 30. Clinton Portis at 29. Mike Anderson, who didn’t enter the league until 27 because he served in the Marines, survived until 34.
Even those numbers can be misleading. A running back’s decline after a carry-heavy season, like the 392 runs by Davis in 1998, can be as gentle as stepping off a cliff.
Last season, Morris took 335 handoffs. That’s fourth-most among Mike Shanahan-coached running backs. The only player with more? Davis, who carried the football 1,106 times in three seasons with the Broncos before his right knee — and career — disintegrated.
That level of use and the ensuing consequences is instructive when examining Morris‘ role, one that’s been lost amid understandable consternation over Robert Griffin III’s return to health and what that means for the offense. Sure, Morris is durable. No one’s suggesting otherwise. But the pounding, 300-plus carry seasons extract a toll. That’s why the additions of rookie running backs Chris Thompson and Jawan Jamison and the return to health of Roy Helu Jr. to compete with Evan Royster are critical when training camp starts next month in Richmond.
There wasn’t a dependable non-Morris option to hand the ball off to 15 or 20 times in a game last season. So, he carried the load. That’s a familiar position after running 725 times during his final three seasons at Florida Atlantic. He’s always been the workhorse, always been the Mazda. But the bargain of a running back’s life, in which most valuable players can turn become unemployable in the space of two seasons, is one he understands.
“Less wear and tear will help you last,” he said. “I won’t worry about getting hurt. Who knows how long your experience in the NFL is going to last. When it’s over, it’s over. I’m not going to sit there with that in the back of my head. Each play could be my last. You never know.”
The ability to survive hit after hit comes from more than his powerful legs or gift to make would-be tacklers miss.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
- Declassified cables from Berlin Wall tell tale of drama, dare,
- Judge denies settlement motion in NFL concussion lawsuit
- Jay Gruden's long and winding road to Washington
- FENNO: Championship game provides an opportunity to listen to those who play
- FENNO: For Redskins, nonsensical is the new normal
Latest Blog Entries
- Boehner rules out impeachment: 'Scam started by Democrats'
- Obama thanks Muslims for 'building the very fabric of our nation'
- Tactical advantage: Russian military shows off impressive new gear
- Obama's brother wears Hamas scarf bearing anti-Israel slogans in photo
- McCLAUGHRY: Finish off the "Islamic State" quickly and cheaply
- Obama: 'Not a new Cold War,' but new Russia sanctions announced
- Smugglers, rainstorm combine to poke holes in border fence
- Hillary Clinton: Forget Obama, George W. Bush made her 'proud to be an American'
- D.C. seeks to stay judge's order allowing gun owners to carry in public
- Kerry's credibility questioned as fighting in Gaza rages
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors
20 gadgets that changed the world