Players play through injury all the time. Sixteen years ago, Hall of Fame running back Curtis Martin played through a fairly serious knee injury to lead the league in rushing.
“My MCL had almost a grade 3 tear in it,” Martin told Tim Benz of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, via CBSSports.com. “It was so loose. I played with it from I believe the sixth or seventh game throughout the rest of the season. At the time, the doctors were telling me that I needed to sit out and let it rest and I may need surgery.”
Martin didn’t know whether to play or not play. He asked his former head coach, Bill Parcells, for advice.
“‘I always think that you should take care of your body, take care of yourself,'” Parcells told Martin, per Martin. “‘I think that’s your priority and that’s what you should do because you never know how it will effect you long-term. But on the other hand, you never really wanna come out of the huddle because you never know who who’s going into the huddle.’ And that just stuck with me forever. He had told me something similar to that when I was a rookie, and so it’s always been my passion that no one else should ever get in that huddle.”
The fear of being Wally Pipped drives many an athlete to never give the next man up an opportunity to become “the guy.” As in Martin’s case, it drives them to play even when they probably shouldn’t.
And so in what would be his next-to-last season in the league, Martin cranked out a career-high 1,697 rushing yards on a career-high 371 carries.