Marshall Faulk spotted the rest of the league two games and still won the NFL’s Most Valuable Player award going away.
“He’s the greatest player in the NFL and that’s something that’s obvious to us,” St. Louis Rams tight end Roland Williams said. “We’re glad everybody else can see it.”
Faulk was a last-minute scratch for Rams’ game against Carolina in Week 9 when loose cartilage locked up in his right knee, and he underwent arthroscopic surgery the following day. He missed the next game and the Rams used him sparingly the two games after that, which didn’t keep him from setting an NFL record with 26 touchdowns and topping 2,000 yards rushing and receiving the second straight season.
The first half of the season, Faulk was probably the MVP favorite.
“I think once I got injured the talk went away,” Faulk said. “Just deciding to get it done when I did was probably the best thing I did. I guess it was just good timing on our part.”
Last season, teammate Kurt Warner was the MVP.
“The guy, I felt, deserved it as much as anybody last year, and definitely deserves it this year,” Warner said. “He’d get my vote every year.”
Back in Form After Injury
Faulk, 27, received 24 votes from a nationwide panel of 50 sports writers and broadcasters. Philadelphia quarterback Donovan McNabb (11) was second, followed by Tennessee running back Eddie George (8), Oakland quarterback Rich Gannon (5), Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning (1) and Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis (1).
Faulk set the NFL record with 2,429 yards last year. This year he set a record with three four-TD games and totaled 2,189 yards, second behind Edgerrin James’ 2,303.
In the last three games, the drive to the playoffs for the defending Super Bowl champions, Faulk totaled 11 touchdowns and 572 yards rushing and receiving. He saved the best for last, rushing for 220 yards and catching seven passes for 41 yards in a victory over the Saints that, combined with the Bears’ upset of the Lions, put the Rams in the postseason.
“I think these last three weeks I found myself back to where I was before I got hurt,” Faulk said. “I could feel the difference. I could see the difference. As that happened, my workload increased.”
‘The Most Unselfish Professional Athlete’
His game isn’t just statistics. Coach Mike Martz has often complimented Faulk for his on-field awareness and leadership off the field, and he doesn’t mind doing the little things.
“He does everything so well,” general manager Charley Armey said. “He had three or four really big blocks in the Saints game, he picks up the blitz real well and lead blocks when he has to.
“I don’t know if anybody has ever had a ballplayer that could do everything as well as he can do it.”
Martz knew Faulk was different early last season, his first with the Rams. Faulk played a minor role in a victory at Cincinnati in Week 3, touching the ball 14 times for only 40 yards, but didn’t need an apology.
“A player of his stature, invariably in professional sports, has this certain amount of selfishness and that lower lip starts to hang,” Martz said. “That’s not Marshall at all.
“He’s the most unselfish professional athlete I think I’ve ever been around.”
Faulk, the 1999 Offensive Player of the Year, is the 14th running back to be voted MVP. He joins such Hall of Fame runners as Jim Brown, Walter Payton, Jim Taylor, Paul Hornung, Earl Campbell and Marcus Allen.
“There’s not too many of those guys that you won’t see in the Hall of Fame, or those guys that didn’t [make it], got everything out of every play on every down,” Faulk said. “It’s good company.”