20 years in the past, the New York Jets rocked the NFL with a record-setting contract for a free-agent working again. It was Curtis Martin, who now has a bronze bust within the Professional Soccer Corridor of Fame.
As a participant, Martin had an enormous fan in Groveport, Ohio. The child’s title was Le’Veon Bell, who has mentioned on quite a few events that Martin was his favourite participant. It is a full-circle type of story as a result of now Bell is the Jets’ splashy free-agent signing, and Martin is the fan.
“I undoubtedly assume Le’Veon is likely one of the finest, if not one of the best again within the NFL,” Martin mentioned Wednesday in a cellphone interview with ESPN. “I at all times say, if I had three backs I might select or draft, it is both Le’Veon, Saquon [Barkley] or Todd Gurley. I feel they’re the three finest backs within the league. To have him is a large asset.”
Martin left a message for Bell to congratulate him on his deal, which was agreed upon late Tuesday. When it turns into official, will probably be a four-year, $52.5 million contract, which dwarfs Martin’s six-year, $36 million deal from 1998. Martin is thrilled his previous staff landed Bell in free company, and he’s touched that Bell admired him as a child.
In his first seven seasons after signing with the Jets in 1998, Curtis Martin averaged 383 touches and 1,698 yards from scrimmage and totaled 58 touchdowns. Warren Zinn/USA In the present day Sports activities
“For him to say that, I take it as an enormous praise as a result of I can solely dream of getting the expertise he has,” Martin mentioned. “If I had his expertise and talent, I might’ve most likely handed Emmitt Smith earlier than I retired.”
That is fairly a praise, contemplating Martin’s accomplishments. He is the fifth-leading rusher of all time, sitting four,254 yards behind Smith. A knee damage lower his profession quick in 2005. Martin at all times prided himself on being somebody who outworked his opponents, compensating for modest athletic capability.
Martin loves Bell’s uncooked capability, in addition to the instincts he reveals when attacking a protection.
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“What I like most about him is his imaginative and prescient,” he mentioned. “I at all times take note of a working again’s imaginative and prescient as a result of I’ve met guys who had been the quickest and the quickest, however they did not have the imaginative and prescient to have the ability to anticipate the defensive strikes. You possibly can at all times inform when a man has good imaginative and prescient. I can inform, when Le’Veon is working, he isn’t simply placing a transfer on the person that is in entrance of him. He is setting himself up for the subsequent man that is coming. That is only a particular sort of man. I consider I had that imaginative and prescient. I simply did not have the flexibility to go together with it.
“I can at all times respect that a few working again. He has a variety of pure athletic attributes, however what I worth most is the imaginative and prescient that he has. He may be affected person and arrange his blocks.”
The Jets’ speeding assault might use a jolt. They’ve had solely 18 1,000-yard speeding seasons in franchise historical past (seven by Martin) and just one up to now six years (Chris Ivory, 2015). They hope Bell, 27, can provoke the offense, which hasn’t functioned like a reliable NFL offense since 2015.
“Le’Veon might’ve gone to any staff within the NFL, and he will enhance that staff,” Martin mentioned. “He is simply that sort of man. There are guys who’re on the prime of the sport of their respective positions, and he is undoubtedly a type of guys. There are particular guys … if you happen to get an Aaron Rodgers, or if you happen to get a Tom Brady or Patrick [Mahomes], they’ll be an asset to any staff they go to. Le’Veon … Antonio Brown, these guys, their degree of expertise is, regardless of the place they go, they’ll make an influence.”
Le’Veon Bell has scored 42 touchdowns in his first 62 NFL video games and averaged 129 yards from scrimmage per sport with Pittsburgh. Photograph by Mark Alberti/ Icon Sportswire
The Jets are betting massive cash on it, with a complete of $35 million in ensures. Bell might be beneath an intense highlight, although Martin does not consider he might be affected by the scrutiny of getting to validate a large contract. Martin acknowledged, although, that “there is a completely different sort of stress in New York. I do not assume Le’Veon will really feel the stress till the season will get began. It is one thing you may’t account for simply by what folks say to you or hear about New York. It doesn’t matter what folks say, New York is completely different.”
Bell’s state of affairs is exclusive in that he sat out final season, embroiled in a contract dispute with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Lots of people are questioning how the layoff will influence his sport. Martin mentioned a one-year break “would’ve harmed me greater than helped me,” however he thought-about himself a participant who wanted repetition and work to achieve success. He mentioned Bell is so gifted that he can overcome the hiatus.
“I feel this relaxation could have executed his physique good,” Martin mentioned. “Additionally, with all the pieces that went on [with his contract], one thing like this will mild a unique spark beneath you and provide you with a unique degree of inspiration.”
Martin is aware of about that. When he left the New England Patriots to signal with the Jets, he had simply undergone belly surgical procedure. Coach Invoice Parcells and assistant normal supervisor Mike Tannenbaum, who negotiated the contract, took some criticism for the daring acquisition. Martin used it as gasoline.
“There was somewhat chip on my shoulder as a result of I bear in mind the Patriots had labeled me as broken items as a result of I used to be coming off an damage,” he mentioned. “So there was part of me that was like, ‘OK, we’ll see how broken I’m.’ That little chip was actually an enormous chip. It is a type of little chips that may transfer mountains.”
Martin ended up enshrined in Canton, not removed from Bell’s hometown.