CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Former fullback J.R. Niklos was shocked the primary time he met Corridor of Fame operating again Marshall Faulk with the St. Louis Rams in 2002.
“He’s acquired his shirt off, and you’d assume being Marshall Faulk, he would simply be shredded,” mentioned Niklos, who performed for the Rams in Faulk’s last 4 seasons (2002-05). “He wasn’t. He was similar to a median man.”
So Niklos understands what Carolina Panthers operating again Christian McCaffrey — who, in 2019, joined Faulk as one in every of three gamers in NFL historical past to have 1,000 yards speeding and receiving in the identical season — meant final week when he mentioned Faulk gave him “nice recommendation” on learn how to keep wholesome later in his profession.
“Marshall used to speak on a regular basis about the way you’re risking being poor in your vitamins [when you bulk up], and the way while you’re poor in your vitamins, that’s while you’re vulnerable to harm,” mentioned Niklos, now the proprietor of Acceleration Sports activities Efficiency within the Chicago space. “So he purposely placed on a few layers of fats on his physique, not solely so he wasn’t poor in his vitamins but in addition so he would have some padding when he acquired hit.”
McCaffrey, who’s coming into his sixth NFL season, didn’t give particulars on Faulk’s recommendation. However after lacking 23 of 33 video games with accidents the previous two seasons, he sounded open to taking it.
2️⃣2️⃣ coming for all of it 😤 pic.twitter.com/WQRIttO1qQ
— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) April 30, 2019
“The problem is type of going away from among the stuff you’ve executed, and trusting that,” McCaffrey mentioned final week.
McCaffrey did not miss any video games his first three seasons, together with 2019, when his new bulked-up physique flooded social media. That season, he had a career-high 403 touches, ending with 1,387 yards speeding and 1,005 yards receiving to affix Faulk (1999) and former San Francisco 49ers again Roger Craig (1985) within the 1,000-1,000 membership.
McCaffrey was so spectacular in 2019 that Faulk described the previous Stanford star as a “higher model of me.”
Nonetheless, McCaffrey hasn’t been a greater model of Faulk in relation to staying on the sphere.
Faulk missed three of 96 regular-season video games his first six seasons. He missed greater than 5 video games as soon as — his last season in 2006, when he was sidelined due to a knee harm.
His 176 video games from 1994 to 2005 was tied with Jerome Bettis for probably the most by a operating again in a 12-year span, in keeping with ESPN Stats & Data analysis. And Faulk led the NFL in touchdowns (136) and yards from scrimmage (19,154) throughout that stretch.
McCaffrey went from being one in every of 34 ability place gamers to participate in each recreation from 2017 to 2019 to lacking the third most video games amongst that group the previous two seasons, in keeping with ESPN Stats & Data information. Comfortable tissue accidents to his proper ankle, proper shoulder, proper quadriceps, proper hamstring and left ankle induced his absence.
That’s why McCaffrey reached out to Faulk and is open to a distinct method of coaching. It’s additionally why coach Matt Rhule indicated McCaffrey received’t play throughout the preseason, saying the crew is exploring methods to vary the method to working towards for a “chess piece that not many groups have.”
Faulk’s late-career success undoubtedly caught McCaffrey’s eye.
“Years 6, 7 and eight have been actually good years for him,” McCaffrey mentioned of Faulk, who averaged 2,221 yards from scrimmage these seasons.
Niklos, as soon as known as the quickest fullback within the NFL by Rams coach Mike Martz, understands. He tailored lots of Faulk’s observe habits into his personal coaching.
“Previous to him, I educated loads like Christian did,” Niklos mentioned.
Niklos famous that Faulk centered on hip power and suppleness.
“All people desires large quads, large hamstrings, large chest, large biceps,” he mentioned. “These are extra the ‘present’ muscle groups. Marshall solely educated the ‘go’ muscle groups — the hip, the glutes, the [hamstrings] … extra like midbody stuff.”
Faulk additionally was nice at avoiding large hits.
“He had a lot physique management, core power, lower-body energy and call stability that he slipped off tacklers,” mentioned ESPN NFL analyst Matt Bowen, a former NFL security who performed with Faulk in 2000 and 2001. “And he knew when to go down, to surrender a few yards and transfer on to the following play.
“Once I was a rookie, I realized a lot from him when it comes to recreation prep, learn how to protect your physique.”
Niklos added that the way in which Faulk was utilized in video games, seldom on the sphere for greater than three performs in a row, additionally helped.
“They have been very calculated,” Niklos mentioned of the Rams. “However should you take a look at his numbers, you by no means see that.”
The Panthers seem like getting ready for the same technique, with second-year again Chuba Hubbard and free-agent signee D’Onta Foreman set to hold extra of the load.
As Rhule famous, McCaffrey has “had sufficient hits on his physique.”
Now it’s as much as McCaffrey to see whether or not Faulk’s recommendation works.
“If there’s some issues you’ll be able to [do to] tack on just a few extra years and stop some stuff,” McCaffrey mentioned, “then I’m all-in.”