Courtesy of Draftsharks.com
Fantasy football is based on three major factors: Luck, opportunity,
and risk. You need to have luck on your side when that running back
breaks the plane of the goal line - will the instant replay official
rule it a touchdown?
You have to maximize your opportunities, by starting players who enter
the red zone constantly in a prolific offensive attack. With the NFL
MVP Marshall Faulk on your roster, you're probably going to have a
good dose of luck on your side, and plenty of opportunities to mark
up TDs on your scoring sheet. But there is that third factor - risk
- that no one seems to really mention when Faulk's name comes up.
If you want to minimize risk during the 2001 fantasy campaign, perhaps
Faulk should not be on your roster this season.
You're thinking, "Blasphemy!" How dare someone bash the
league's biggest scoring machine! After all, this is the same Faulk
who scored a whopping 26 TDs last season. The same Faulk who had three
different 4-TD games last season. The same Faulk who seems to play
flanker and tailback at the same time, catching 254 passes in the
last 3 years. Yes, the man is all of this, and a bag of chips. But
he's also the same man who has at least 1 bum knee -- plain and simple
-- and it's going to catch up to him one day.
Go back to the fall of '92, when a 19-year-old Faulk and his San Diego
State Aztecs hosted the Miami Hurricanes. He was held out of the game
with a sore knee. Miami demolished the Aztecs 65-13. Nothing was ever
really said about the injury, because Faulk returned to action the
next week and finished the season with 1,630 yards and 15 TDs. He
also placed 2nd in the Heisman Trophy voting. All is well.
Two years later, he suited up for the Indianapolis Colts and was the
1994 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. But in the fall of '95, Faulk's
2nd pro season, he began appearing on the injury report as 'probable'
with a knee injury. Sadly, before week #17 an MRI revealed that Faulk
had loose cartilage and floating bodies in his knee - his left knee
- and would require surgery to correct it when the season was over.
He had the knee drained before the AFC Wildcard game but only managed
1 carry for 16 yards before re-injuring it. On January 5th he gave
in to the knee pain and had a major operation involving drilling holes
in the bone to stimulate cartilage growth: Recovery time projected
to be 4-6 months. His Colts, led by Jim Harbaugh, actually made it
to the AFC Championship vs. Pittsburgh without him. Though they lost,
the Colts were young on both sides of the ball, and they had a young
workhorse who had 2 Pro Bowl selections before his 23rd birthday.
All is well.
The January surgery behind him, Faulk worked diligently to get his
left knee in shape for the '96 season. He reported soreness in the
knee before a preseason game at Houston, and also ended up battling
a sprained right foot all year (from favoring that knee?). The result
was his worst season in his whole career of football: 198 carries
for 587 yards, 3.0 per carry, and only 7 TDs. No one worried, however,
and why would they? He was only 24-years old going into '97, his 4th
pro season, and his upside was buoyed by a healthier off-season. He
logged 1,054 rushing yards, 471 receiving yards, and 8 total TDs.
Only no one noticed that he appeared on the injury report as 'probable'
or 'questionable' several times, while getting his right, not left,
knee scoped before week #4. At least that terrible '96 campaign was
ancient history, right? All is well.
In July '98 Faulk banged his right knee in a collision with backup
QB Kelly Holcomb. He missed practically the entire camp, but no one
noticed because he made it back for the regular season. Training camps
and preseason games are like your wedding anniversary: They are hard
to remember. Plus, Peyton Manning was in town, so Faulk's knee wasn't
the hottest topic in Indianapolis. Faulk compiled 2,227 total yards
from scrimmage, and led all NFL RBs with 86 catches. As usual, all
Faulk was traded to the Rams for a 2nd and 5th round pick before the
'99 NFL Draft. By this time Marshall was 26, and already entering
his 6th season. Amazingly, he had almost 1,700 total touches (carries
and catches) under his belt. 1999 was a wonderful season in that Faulk
ate up yardage to the tune of 2,429 yards from scrimmage, breaking
Barry Sanders' 1997 record of 2,357. His Rams won Super Bowl XXXIV,
and again - All is well.
Now we find ourselves in 2001 fantasy draft mode, poring over pages
of stats and profiles covering the 2000 season. Faulk's numbers last
year need not be rehashed again. Instead, let's focus on what has
not been rehashed: His knee problems.
During the 2000 season, while Faulk was scoring TDs, his right knee
was growing increasingly sore. By October, Mike Martz said, "It's
a chronic situation that continues to be aggravated." He had
an MRI that revealed torn scar tissue and an enlarged bruise, in addition
to the loose cartilage. Both Faulk and Martz admitted they he had
been playing with a sore knee for "most of the season."
The torn scar tissue was from "an old injury" according
to the doctors. On Sunday, November 5th, Faulk had his knee drained
before the Carolina game, but then his knee locked up on him right
before kickoff: "He came in and said, `I can't do this,'"
Martz said. "For Marshall to say that, you've got to listen to
him. If anybody can go, Marshall can go." Well, he couldn't go,
and thousands of fantasy footballers had the rug yanked out from under
them. It was announced that Justin Watson would start just 2 minutes
before kickoff. Ouch.
Faulk would miss the Giants game the next week, but made a near-miraculous
comeback and went on to finish with an astounding 2,189 total yards
and a record-breaking 26 TDs in only 14 games. All is well, right?
Last March, Faulk met with team doctors, specifically Dr. George Paletta,
to discuss the problems this right knee was giving him. "He could
feel the cartilage getting hung up in there," Mike Martz said.
The "drilling" surgery, like the one Faulk had on his left
knee in '96, was suggested immediately. To the dismay of Faulk and
the Rams officials, the 4-6 month recovery time would cut into the
2001 season. His other option was to do the usual arthroscopic job,
and have the knee smoothed over and the loose bodies removed. Dr.
Paletta recommended the major operation, saying, "Without the
operation, Faulk is likely to experience rapid wear and tear in the
knee." Marshall declined the major operation, and just had the
knee scoped out. He missed May's minicamp, but enabled himself to
suit up for training camp in July. All is well, for now
There were reports that Faulk will use an injected knee "lubricant"
periodically during the season, in order to alleviate his cartilage
problems, or 'lack of', that is. Yikes! That sounds like WD-40 on
a rusty bicycle.
On August 1st, Mike Martz said, "Marshall has a slight case of
patellar tendinitis, so what we want to do, so that it doesn't get
more inflamed, is give him anywhere from 3-7 days off." On August
4th, he had another MRI, this time revealing an enlarged bone bruise
on the right knee. On August 6th, Faulk told MNF reporter Eric Dickerson
that doctors said he could miss 3 weeks of action with his sore knee.
Martz quickly went into spin control, and fired back: "I think
what Marshall was referring to is I told him that I didn't want to
play him for another 2 or 3 weeks."
What? Is it days or weeks? Now the press is laying hints that his
knee is more serious than originally advertised. Plus, it's never
good when Coach & Player are not on the same page with an injury.
That means there is more to it, and different voices in each of their
ears. For instance, Mr. Owner says, "Nah, no major operation
- the kid's gotta play, we gotta sell tickets." Mr. Doctor might
say, "Sure, but this knee is degenerative and needs attention."
It makes you wonder, especially when you know Faulk wants to play,
no matter what.
The MVP will be 29 in February, with 7 whole seasons of NFL football
behind him. The guy is a warrior, for sure, and might surely fight
through his knee problems all season and score another 20+ TDs this
season. But given the above evidence, facts, and dialogue, do you
really believe that? Study last year's stats well, and fantasize
about how Faulk churned out bushels of TDs and thousands of yards,
because this year could be quite different. By the way, Faulk opens
his season in Philadelphia, and 6 of his first 8 games are on turf.
Bottom line for Faulk: All is not well.