At full stride

Saturday, July 26, 2003

MACOMB, Ill. -- Marshall Faulk's NFL-record string of four straight 2,000-yard seasons rushing and receiving is history. So is his run of five straight 1,000-yard rushing seasons.

But the Rams' running back, entering his 10th season in the league at 30, is making no concessions to age.

"What's the old Marshall?" Faulk said. "I don't care about that. I just want to go out there and produce.

"Whatever the numbers are at the end, let them be as long as we find ourselves where we want to be."

The Rams are expecting big numbers, again, from a healthy Faulk. He has a team-record 69 touchdowns in four seasons, and last year he became the 15th player to rush for 10,000 yards.

"I think Marshall is capable of having his best year ever," coach Mike Martz said. "I think he's just hitting his stride."

Quarterback Kurt Warner, also on the comeback trail, said Faulk hasn't showed any signs of slowing down.

"The guy is an amazing talent and I haven't seen him drop off one bit in the time I've been here," Warner said. "There's no reason for me to expect anything less than Marshall."

Faulk definitely isn't looking at the end. Asked how many years he had left, he shot back playfully to a reporter: "I don't know. How many more have you got?"

Last year was a lost season for both Faulk and the Rams. He missed two games and parts of six others with a high ankle sprain, often playing hurt, and finished with 953 yards rushing and 537 receiving.

The Rams, coming off a Super Bowl loss to the Patriots, started the year 0-5 and never recovered, finishing 7-9.

Faulk saw positive signs, even in the rubble. No one was pointing fingers and the team finished strong with a come-from-behind victory over the 49ers.

"Last year showed we all had each other's back," he said. "It's easy to stick with one another when you have a 13-3 season and you're in the playoffs.

"We put it all on the line like we've always done when things were on the line, when something was at stake."

Now the ankle sprain is history, and Faulk, after a heavy offseason conditioning program, again is zigzagging through the defense in training camp. He's noticeably bulked up in the upper body, the better to absorb hits.

"He had a great offseason in the weight room, and to me he looks faster and there's a lot more explosion," running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery said. "Marshall has 10 years in this league and it looks like he's got the energy of a rookie."

Faulk downplays the effect of all the training.

"I feel the same," he said. "I'm not going to say I feel any better or worse. Working out is working out -- it's an excuse for supposed to being in shape but understanding you're still going to get your butt kicked when you get out there.

"Just like you go through this whole camp and you get in the first game and you're still sucking wind regardless of how much you work at it."

Faulk doesn't mind if many so-called experts don't think too highly of the Rams' chances for a rebound this year.

"We don't pay attention to you guys when it comes to that," he said. "We don't listen to anything that's said or what anybody suggests we should do or shouldn't do. You can't do that.

"We do our jobs and we let you all do your jobs."

The Rams scored 500 points three years in a row from 1999-2001 and Faulk said they're capable of doing it again. He notes all the skill players, two-time MVP quarterback Kurt Warner and wide receivers Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt, are still around.

"Kurt's still here, I'm still here, and Ike and Torry," Faulk said. "We'll see, that's all you can say. Suspense lies ahead."

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