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NFL Sunday Outtakes: Dickerson, Martin on committee backfields


By Tim Graham

Not much was lopped onto the cutting room floor to produce my most recent NFL Sunday feature.

But in speaking with eight Pro Football Hall of Fame running backs, there still were some choice cuts that didn't make it into the story about C.J. Spiller and how the Buffalo Bills use him -- and how today's NFL deploys its running backs in general.

Eric Dickerson and Curtis Martin shared their thoughts on why the NFL has drifted away from backfields dominated by one player to a committee approach.

Dickerson led the NFL in carries three times and rushing yards four times, including a record 2,105 yards in 1984.

"It's to keep salaries down at that position, and some guys just get stuck in a system where they make you believe it's better to split carries. That's just not true. I look at guys like Adrian Peterson or Maurice Jones-Drew or Arian Foster. Those are guys that want to carry the football.

"Running backs haven't changed. The NFL just has turned into a passing league. People want to see the ball thrown. They want to see a lot of points. In our day, if a receiver couldn't get off the line, you're stuck. Too bad. But now you can't touch them, and you can't touch the quarterback.

"I hate that they're kind of phasing the running back out. But I don't think it'll happen. I think the running back will re-emerge, where you'll have like when I played, seven or eight guys whose names you could rattle off pretty fast. Now, you go, 'Oh, I forgot about him.' Or you have two-back systems."

Martin led the NFL in carries and yards in 2004 at the age of 31.

"This is one trend that I'm not sure will go back to the way it was. For a lot of guys, it can prolong careers. For a lot of guys, I think it works.

"But for a guy like myself, it wouldn't have worked. I was one of those guys who needed the ball at least 15 times before I felt like I caught my second wind, where I felt I was really into my groove.

"Unfortunately, for running backs, with this new style that's taking place, I find it hard for a lot of guys to break into that all-time top rushers 10 anymore. It's running back by committee, and another unfortunate thing is they become more expendable. They're not worked as much."

(Photo: Associated Press)


NFL Sunday Outtakes
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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham |

Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan |

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski |