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Shaping Up The Rams' Marshall Faulk works hard to prove he's not finished at 30

By one website's estimate, there are 27 million fantasy football
players in the U.S. It's probable that 26 million of them will go
to bed the night before their drafts this year wondering, Will
the Rams' Marshall Faulk be the dynamic rushing-receiving-scoring
threat that he was when he won league MVP honors in 2000 or the
declining and injury-plagued player of the recent past?

"We shall see," a particularly pensive Faulk said last Friday,
after playing in coach Mike Martz's celebrity golf tournament
near St. Louis. "I wish I could tell you I'm going to play 16
games at a high level. I'm certainly working harder than I've
worked in the off-season in trying to make that happen."

Faulk hits two milestones this year--he turned 30 in February,
and he starts his 10th NFL season in September--that usually mark
the beginning of the end for an NFL running back (chart, right).
In Faulk's case, playing most of his games on artificial turf
(five seasons in Indianapolis, four in St. Louis) has taken a
toll. Knee and shoulder injuries dogged him in 2000 and 2001,
causing him to miss four games, and a high ankle sprain last year
limited him to 212 rushing attempts in 14 games (only 48 carries
over the last seven). So for the first time since he joined the
Rams in 1999, Faulk has been a regular in the team's off-season
conditioning program. "I've put an emphasis on the upper body so
I'll be able to take the pounding," he says. "I'm a lot stronger
than I've been in the past in June, more well-rested. Nothing's
nagging at me."

But more important, how good will Faulk be feeling by
Thanksgiving? His team's first six games this season are on
artificial turf, bad news for a man with an arthritic right knee.
This season will be a four-month endurance test (or longer, if
St. Louis makes the playoffs) during which Martz plans to
preserve Faulk by resting him in training camp and during some
regular-season practice weeks.

Whenever his career ends, Faulk will leave large footprints. He's
the only player in NFL history to have four consecutive seasons
with 2,000 yards rushing and receiving combined, and he's second
to Jim Brown (125.5 yards) in combined yardage per game over a
career (121.3). But personal statistics don't drive Faulk as much
as his desire to win at least one more NFL championship. "I'm
happy with what I've done in the game, but I'm not satisfied," he
says. "I'm playing for Super Bowls. I've had my big days of yards
and touchdowns--that was the Marshall of my early years. When I
took myself out of the center of things and thought only of the
team, that's when my life became great. Someone will break the
records I have, but no one will take away the Super Bowls. Those
last forever."

Read Peter King's Monday Morning Quarterback every week at

COLOR PHOTO: DAVID E. KLUTHO Faulk has run into the record book, but he's been hounded by injuries in recent years.

Downhill Run

When Marshall Faulk turned 30 in February, he reached what is
typically the line of demarcation for a running back's
production. Only one of the top 10 backs on the alltime rushing
list--Walter Payton--had a better season at 30 than he had, on
average, in his career before then. Here are the yards-per-game
averages (rushing and receiving combined) for the top 15 alltime
rushers before turning 30 and for the seasons when they were 30
and 31.


1. Emmitt Smith 108.4 101.1 80.1
2. Walter Payton 113.2 128.3 127.1
3. Barry Sanders 119.8 111.3 retired
4. Eric Dickerson 122.5 69.9 80.5
5. Tony Dorsett 104.2 103.0 109.8
6. Jim Brown 125.5 retired
7. Marcus Allen 104.2 54.4 52.3
8. Franco Harris 89.0 75.8 77.3
9. Thurman Thomas 108.5 85.8 53.2
10. Jerome Bettis 88.9 55.6 (2003)
11. John Riggins 77.9 82.3 did not play
12. O.J. Simpson 108.7 99.3 76.5
13. Ricky Watters 102.9 99.8 115.9
14. Marshall Faulk 121.3 (2003) (2004)
15. Curtis Martin 105.4 (2003) (2004)