I am robustly excited for Todd Gurley’s first full season, because he is a joy to watch. But while sports fandom can be a selfish thing—especially in football, where we’re used to seeing our favorite players’ brains turn to applesauce and ACLs slingshot into the upper deck—I want the best for both me and Todd. I want him to be great now and also 10 years from now. And he wants it too.
In a profile on Bleacher Report, Gurley, barely 22 years old, seems preternaturally aware of the amount of punishment he’s going to take, and how to avoid some of it.
“It’s cool getting more involved in the passing game—better than having 11 guys coming straight at you when you are running the ball,” he said. “You get to at least avoid a couple hits.”
Throwing to Gurley will allow him to get near 25 touches a game without absorbing the violence of 25 runs. Gurley would like to keep his rushes in the 20-to-25-per-game range.
“Nobody wants to carry the ball 30 times a game,” he said. “It’s not the 1980s no more.”
Good on Gurley for looking after himself, because the Rams sure as hell aren’t going to.
This ties in nicely with Kevin Clark’s Ringer piece from earlier this week, which I have a strong feeling is going to be referenced a lot this season. The story noted how the NFL is getting younger, and many believe it’s affecting the overall quality of play, but more granularly it’s affecting career trajectories. A capable NFL player is indispensable only up until he becomes more expensive than a potential replacement—that is, through the end of his rookie contract. It’s not counter to a team’s best interest to run a player (especially a running back, whose careers are grimly short anyway) into the ground, to use up as much of his prime without thought for what comes next for him.
The Rams are kind of a disaster in the air, and god even knows who the second-string running back is, so there’s no reason for them not to keep giving the ball to Gurley for as many years as he can handle it before falling apart. While I’m thrilled to watch him carry an offense now, anything he can do to limit wear and tear is good news for him and us now and hopefully for years to come.