Carolina Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey is “all-in” on Marshall Faulk’s advice to stay healthy – Carolina Panthers blog

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Former fullback J.R. Niklos was surprised the first time he met Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk With the St. Louis Rams 2002

“He’s got his shirt off, and you would think being Marshall Faulk, he would just be shredded,” said Niklos, who played for the Rams in Faulk’s final four seasons (2002-05). “He wasn’t. He was just like an average guy.”

So Niklos knows what Carolina Panthers Running back Christian McCaffrey — who, in 2019, joined Faulk as one of three players in NFL history to have 1,000 yards rushing and receiving in the same season — meant last week when he said Faulk gave him “great advice” on how to stay healthy later in his career.

“Marshall used to talk all the time about how you’re risking being deficient in your nutrients [when you bulk up], and how when you’re deficient in your nutrients, that’s when you’re susceptible to injury,” said Niklos, now the owner of Acceleration Sports Performance in the Chicago area. “So he purposely put on a couple of layers of fat on his body, not only so he wasn’t deficient in his nutrients but also so he would have some padding when he got hit.”

McCaffrey, who is entering his sixth NFL season, didn’t give details on Faulk’s advice. McCaffrey, who is entering his sixth NFL season, didn't give any details on Faulk's advice after missing 23 of 33 games due to injuries in the previous two seasons.

“The challenge is kind of going away from some of the stuff you’ve done, and trusting that,” McCaffrey said last week.

McCaffrey did not miss any games during his three previous seasons. He also didn't miss any of the 2019 season's games, even though his body was a lot bigger than before. He had 403 touches that season and finished with 1,387 yards of rushing and 1,005 receiving to join Faulk (1999), and former. San Francisco 49ers Back Roger Craig (1985) In the 1,000-1,000 club.

McCaffrey was so impressive in 2019 that Faulk described the former Stanford star as a “better version of me.”

However, McCaffrey hasn’t been a better version of Faulk when it comes to staying on the field.

Faulk only missed three of the 96 regular-season games in his six first seasons. Only once did Faulk miss more than five games — in 2006 when he was injured in his knee.

His 176 total games played between 1994 and 2005 was tied Jerome Bettis for the most by a running back in a 12-year span, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. Faulk was the NFL's leader in touchdowns (136), and yards from scrimmage (19.154) during this stretch.

McCaffrey went from being one of 34 skill position players to take part in every game from 2017 to 2019 to missing the third-most games among that group the past two seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Info data.

He was injured to his right ankle, right shoulder and right quadriceps.

That’s why he reached out to Faulk and why he’s open to a different way of training. It’s also why coach Matt Rhule indicated McCaffrey won’t play during the preseason, saying the team is exploring ways to change the approach to practicing for a “chess piece that not many teams have.”

Faulk’s late-career success definitely caught McCaffrey’s eye.

“Years 6, 7 and 8 were really good years for him,” McCaffrey said of Faulk, who averaged 2,221 yards from scrimmage those seasons.

Niklos is a former Rams coach Mike Martz's fastest fullback. He adapted many of Faulk’s practice habits into his own training.

“Prior to him, I trained a lot like Christian did,” Niklos said.

Niklos pointed out that Faulk was very focused on hip strength as well as flexibility.

“Everybody wants big quads, big hamstrings, big chest, big biceps,” he said. “Those are more the ‘show' muscles. Marshall only trained the ‘go muscles, which are the hip, glutes and the calves. [hamstrings] … more like midbody stuff.”

Faulk was also a master at avoiding major hits.

“He had so much body control, core strength, lower-body power and contact balance that he slipped off tacklers,” said ESPN NFL analyst Matt Bowen, a former NFL safety who played with Faulk in 2000 and 2001. “And he knew when to go down, to give up a couple of yards and move on to the next play.

“When I was a rookie, I learned so much from him in terms of game prep, how to preserve your body.”

Niklos stated that Faulk, who was rarely on the field more than three times in a row, helped.

“They were very calculated,” Niklos said of the Rams. “But if you look at his numbers, you never see that.”

The Panthers are preparing for a similar strategy. Second-year back Chuba Hubbard Sign up as a free agent D’Onta Foreman Set to carry more weight

As Rhule noted, McCaffrey has “had enough hits on his body.”

Now it’s up to McCaffrey to see whether Faulk’s advice works.

“If there’s some things you can [do to] tack on a few more years and prevent some stuff,” McCaffrey said, “then I’m all-in.”

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