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Old 09-18-2007, 11:14 PM   #1
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Default Will the wheels fall off of Parker?


Steelers' Willie Parker could be playing chicken with 'Curse of 370' this season
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Peter Diana/ Post-Gazette photo Illustration

Barry Foster carried the Steelers on his back in 1992. He ran a team-record 390 times for a team-record 1,690 yards. He added 36 receptions to his offensive total.

Then his wheels came off. A badly sprained left ankle that eventually required surgery helped more than cut his yardage in half in 1993, when he ran 177 times for 711 yards. In 1994, he had 851 yards. In 1995, he was out of the league at age 26.

Yesterday, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin made a promise about Willie Parker at his news conference that challenged the "Curse of 370," the very reason many believe Foster broke down.

"We're going to ride Willie until the wheels come off," Tomlin declared. "He's game for that, he's in great physical condition, he wants the ball, he's a competitor and he's showing he's capable of doing that."

Uh-oh. For the true believers, if Parker hits 370 carries this season, his wheels will come off and he will never be as good a runner again. This is not anecdotal, like the "Curse of the Bambino." There is documented evidence that if a runner carries 370 times a season, including the postseason, nothing but bad things happen to him.

Researchers at Football Outsiders, an independent Web site based in Framingham, Mass., dedicated to following the NFL, have documented the phenomenon for several years. They have produced an impressive list of those backs who carried 370 times in one season and then hit a wall.

They define the "Curse of 370" thusly:

"A running back with 370 or more carries during the regular season will usually suffer either a major injury or loss of effectiveness the following year, unless he is named Eric Dickerson."

Among the documented post-370 failures that Football Outsiders documents are such recent examples as Terrell Davis, Eddie George, Curtis Martin, Jamal Lewis, Ricky Williams and Natrone Means, and such luminaries of the past as Hall of Famer Earl Campbell.

Parker carried 337 times last season, fourth most in Steelers history, for 1,494 yards. He has 50 carries this season, for 235 yards. That's a pace of 400 carries.

Could Parker join the list of cursed rushers or, if he reaches the magic number of 370, could he join Dickerson, a Hall of Famer who is among the few who thumbed their noses at the curse?

Tomlin believes the more Parker carries, the better he becomes. Tomlin plans to use him much the way Bill Cowher used Foster in his first season as Steelers coach -- as often as possible.

"He's getting better with each carry as these games go on, and I'm starting to realize that about him. He's a rhythm runner," Tomlin said. "So we're going to feed him. We're not going to make any bones about that."

Feed him to the wolves, curse believers claim. Tomlin wasn't asked about any curses at his news conference yesterday, and it's obvious he does not believe in them. He came to the Steelers professing his belief in a two-back system but seems to have adjusted that outlook. Najeh Davenport, Parker's backup, has 14 carries for 89 yards and has been used mainly on third downs and in mop-up time in routs of Cleveland and Buffalo.

Fullback Carey Davis is third on the team with four carries.

"We're going to play some people, but Willie Parker is our feature runner and that's no secret," Tomlin said. "When he needs a blow, he's going to get a blow; when he doesn't, he won't.

"Najeh has been kind of our third-down feature back. He's been our closer. Najeh has a significant number of carries here these first two weeks. He had six carries the other day; Carey Davis had a carry. So we're spreading the ball around, but we're going to ride with Willie Parker because we recognize what he is."

So, too, was the thinking in Seattle when Shaun Alexander ran 370 times to lead the NFL with 1,880 yards rushing in 2005, a 5.1-yard average per carry. In the third game of 2006, his foot was broken and he ran for 896 yards and a 3.6-yard average per carry. Through two games this season, he has 175 yards and a 3.9-yard average per carry.

Many curse observers are also watching Larry Johnson this season. He ran an NFL-record 416 times in the 2006 regular season for 1,789 yards. The Kansas City Chiefs rewarded the former Penn State back with a new contract Aug. 21 -- six years, $45 million, including $19 million in guaranteed money. It's the richest contract in Chiefs history.

Through two games, Johnson has 98 yards on 26 carries, tied for 29th in the NFL.
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Old 09-18-2007, 11:19 PM   #2
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Default Re: Will the wheels fall off of Parker?

I think Willie is capable of it, but keep an eye on him and if he starts to wear down lessen the load for him.
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Old 09-18-2007, 11:26 PM   #3
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Default Re: Will the wheels fall off of Parker?

Yeah. But I dont want WIllie Going down due to injury and then we saying Damn shoulda watched his carries. I think we Need to Watch his carries and keep his legs good. when we are up by a lot i dont think there is a reason to continue to push the issue when like Coach tomlin said We have Najeh and a couple Fullbacks who love to get off, At least one. Keep Fast William Fresh!!!!
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Old 09-18-2007, 11:32 PM   #4
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Default Re: Will the wheels fall off of Parker?

Getting dookie more time might not necessarily be a bad thing. IMO

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Old 09-19-2007, 08:25 AM   #5
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Default Re: Will the wheels fall off of Parker?

I don't know, but it seems to me that before all this "running back by committee stuff", I seem to remember lot's of NFL RB's carrying the ball 25 times a game (which averages 400 carries a season).

In 79, Campbell and Payton were at 368 and 369. 80 was Campbell at 373. In 83 Dickerson carried 390 times. 84 Dickerson carried 379 and Payton carried 381. Gerald Riggs carried the ball 397 times the next year, after 353 the year before. Dickerson carried it 404 times in 86.

I think this 370 thing might be a bit of a red herring.
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Old 09-19-2007, 08:35 AM   #6
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Default Re: Will the wheels fall off of Parker?

I swear, this city has some major issues when it comes running backs carrying the rock. They act like the guy is going to shatter like glass come week eight. He's a football player. He's a running back. He's an athlete. Much like LT and many other backs in the league, I'm sure Willie is capable.

What? A running back getting that many carries? Crazy!!!

What? A running back who is not over 250 pounds? Crazy!!!

What? No aging LB with a big mouth? Crazy!!!

I love it.
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Old 09-19-2007, 08:40 AM   #7
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Default Re: Will the wheels fall off of Parker?

I get sick of hearing people doubt Willie year after year. Why do people always have to look for a problem with this guy?

In college he was too small.

In his first start he was a one week wonder.

In the Super Bowl, he only had one good run.

Last year, he only had a good year because there was no pressure.

This year, he is going to ware down before the season is over.

He had A TON of carries last year and never slowed down. HE IS A PRO BOWLER IN A SUPERIOR CONFERENCE. Why do people always gotta question him? It just kills me. He is one of the best! Be glad we have him.
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Old 09-19-2007, 08:52 AM   #8
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Default Re: Will the wheels fall off of Parker?

I agree with you 100% Shutdow24. Willie has been the man for us, and believe it or not, he has helped "The Bus" solidify is spot in Canton. He carried the load in 2004 season, which I think Jerome scored 13 TD's and obviously, we know what happen the following season. This little guy named "Fast Willie" has been carrying the load for 3 seasons now...

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Old 09-19-2007, 10:19 AM   #9
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Default Re: Will the wheels fall off of Parker?

All the other backs named played 3 or 4 years of college ball, where in some cases they got the ball on more than half the plays. Parker basically skipped his entire college career.

I think he'll be just fine, and he'll end his career as one of the best backs to ever play the game.

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Old 09-19-2007, 10:38 AM   #10
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Default Re: Will the wheels fall off of Parker?

IMO Tomlin likes to throw comments out to get a rise out of the media (e.g. - the promise of numerous 2 a days during training camp that turned out not be true).

Tomlin is not going to run Parker until the wheels fall off - but saying that is an easy way for Tomlin to send a compliment to Parker regarding how valuable he thinks Willie is via the media

If Parker does carry the ball >370 times this year he will be burned out and not be starting by 2009
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