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Martin: The Jets' propulsion

By Compiled by ERNEST HOOPER

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 24, 2000

Curtis Martin churns out yards like an old-fashioned steel mill cranks out sheet metal. It's a steady, steamy, efficient pounding.

Martin does not make many highlight reels, he isn't necessarily a breakaway threat. But make no mistake, he is the engine that drives the New York Jets offense.

"He's a guy that we count on in our offense to run the ball," quarterback Vinny Testaverde said. "He's always on the field. He's a warrior, he's a workhorse and he's very dependable and a guy this offense needs."

In three games, he's rushed for 241 yards on 70 carries and caught 10 passes for 78 yards. Those numbers aren't overwhelming until you consider Martin has been involved in 80 of the Jets' 202 offensive plays (40 percent) and produced 319 of the Jets' 988 yards of total offense (32.3 percent).

"I'm the type of a guy where it's always do or die," Martin said. "It's always go until you can't go anymore. It's always I can be better. I continually push myself. At some point, it could not be good, but that's just the way I am. I can't even help it. I was telling the guys I don't think I can play football long enough to accomplish the goals I want to accomplish."

Martin has already accomplished one goal. The sixth-year veteran has rushed for 1,000 yards in each of his five seasons, putting him in an elite category with Eric Dickerson, Tony Dorsett and Barry Sanders.

QUIET COX: After the Jets' last preseason game, reporters in the locker room made a beeline to Bryan Cox, one of the most quotable players. But Cox rebuffed them, saying he was no longer talking to reporters. The only thing Cox would talk about is his insistence that he no longer was talking.

For a media contingent that had already lost the ever-quotable Keyshawn Johnson, it was a big blow. And Cox has maintained the silence, except for when he recently appeared on ESPN's Up Close and granted an interview with Newsday.

Cox said the self-imposed ban is a result of a difficult year in which he's endured the death of an uncle, a former teacher, and fellow NFL linebacker Derrick Thomas. He also had to deal with the breakup of his marriage to wife LaTonia. Looking back on it now, Cox said he would have stopped playing football had he known this would happen. He said he still loves his ex-wife.

"If I had to do it over again, I would have retired a couple of years ago, because my family is the most important thing in my life," Cox said. "I always said I would never let football come between me and my family, but here I am, and it happened."

The couple agreed to joint custody of their four children, and the two youngest, Chiquita and Bryan Jr., live with Cox during the season. Cox doesn't want to embarrass them with an ill-advised comment, so he's keeping quiet.

YOUNG GUNS: The Jets brought in four first-round picks this year, thanks in part to the two choices they received from the Bucs for Johnson. Quarterback Chad Pennington will play sparingly this season and tight end Anthony Becht is starting to come on.

But coach Al Groh said he's thrilled with the play of defensive end Shaun Ellis and outside linebacker John Abraham. Neither is starting, but Ellis has seven tackles and three sacks, while Abraham has five tackles and 11/2 sacks.

"They are the size, speed, explosive type of players I see the Bucs playing with and I'm very hopeful that they can grow into being the same kind of players," Groh said. "They have added to our pass rush. There's a lot of things that are important to winning games in the NFL. It can't come down to any single thing or a couple of things, but one of the important things in the NFL is the ability to rush the passer in the fourth quarter when games are on the line.

"We've had three of them now where we've had to rush the quarterback in the fourth quarter, and they've been able to do that for us to an effect on this level that we haven't had in the past."

QUOTABLE: Martin, on the difference between former Jets coach Bill Parcells and Groh: "When you mention Bill Parcells, fear is one of the first emotions. And it's a good thing. When you mention Al, you respect the guy, but it's not a Parcells-type feeling."

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