Marshall Faulk slumped on his stool in the Indianapolis Colts' locker room, grimacing as he rubbed his ribs that were made sore by another day of pounding by opposing defenses.
"This is a tough way to make a living sometimes," he said, shaking his head.
Actually, Faulk was one of only a few players on the Colts to earn his money during a 34-11 loss to the Buffalo Bills Sunday. The five-year veteran running back accounted for nearly three quarters of his team's offense, gaining 102 yards on a game-high eight catches and another 85 yards rushing on 18 attempts.
It was another in a long string of stellar performances for the former second overall pick in the 1994 draft. With 1,556 yards from scrimmage, he is on pace to become the 16th player in NFL history to amass 2,000 in a season. The NFL record is 2,358 yards, set last year by Barry Sanders (2,053 rushing, 305 receiving).
Bills running back Thurman Thomas reached 2,000 total yards twice (2,038 in 1991 and 2,113 in 1992). Faulk also could join former San Francisco 49er Roger Craig (1985) as the only players to gain 1,000 yards each rushing and receiving in one season. He has 845 yards on the ground (a 1,200-yard pace) and 711 receiving (a 1,050-yard pace) thus far. Faulk leads the AFC with 62 receptions and could become the first running back since Lionel James (San Diego, 1985) to top the conference in that category.
"Marshall is having an excellent year for us this year, running and catching," said Colts coach Jim Mora. "He competed hard today. He made plays for us today. We just need a few more like him."
Therein lies the problem for the Colts (2-9). Faulk isn't just a major part of their offense. He IS the offense most of the time. He is responsible for more than 44 percent of Indianapolis' yardage this year. The NFL record is 47.9 percent, set by O.J. Simpson during his 2,003-yard rushing season for the Bills in 1973.
"Without Marshall, we probably wouldn't have the two wins we've got," said wide receiver Marvin Harrison (57 catches, 741 yards), one of a precious few other productive players on the offense. "He just does it all for us. I don't know if he will make the Pro Bowl, but he should because he deserves it."
Fifteen players have 27 seasons totaling at least 2,000 yards from scrimmage. In all cases, that player was named to the Pro Bowl.
Faulk hasn't been to the Pro Bowl since making it his first two years in the league. While that is a goal, the team's poor season has taken some of the joy out of it.
"It's starting to be hard to look at it and try to draw anything positive out of it," said Faulk, the only player in the league with 500 yards rushing and receiving this year. "Just like anybody else, I play this game to win. Personal accomplishments . . . That's what they are. It's a team game though.
"We all have a job to do when we step out on the field. Unfortunately, we didn't do the things we needed to do to win."
By no fault of Faulk's.
"Marshall is a special ball player," offensive tackle Adam Meadows said. "He has been the bright light in a dark and dismal season."