Turner the burnout? No, Falcons will monitor workload

Interested in preserving Michael Turner a little better than the Atlanta Falcons did Jamal Anderson a decade earlier, coach Mike Smith said the plan is to better monitor the number of carries the workhorse back gets.

You’d think that would have been part of the equation in 2010 after Turner led the NFL the year before with 376 rushes. That number dropped dramatically because of ankle injuries that kept him out of five games and limited him in others, but Smith knows the staff needs to do a better job of keeping track of Turner’s work.

“Michael came back, and in the first game he was back, he injured his ankle. He was really politicking to get back. The doctors cleared him,” Smith said. “I think I looked at it in a different light. He’s such a tough guy he wanted to get back in and play. I think he’ll be bigger, faster and stronger this year. It’s important for us to do a good job of monitoring his carries for the game.

“We have to make sure we don’t overwork Michael throughout the season. We designed our game plan to get others involved. We thought the addition of (tight end) Tony Gonzalez would take some carries away from Michael.”

The only way they are truly going to take some carries away from Turner is to give them to another back. Believe it or not, some of his numbers went up this past season. Turner had only 871 yards after rushing for 1,699 in 2009, but he averaged 4.9 yards per carry, significantly up from his 4.5 average in his first season with the Falcons.

Running backs usually don’t fade away, they flame out quickly. Smith is doing the right thing in saying he needs to better track what his bell cow back is doing during games. Otherwise, Turner could head down the path Anderson did, and no one wants to see that. Anderson had 410 carries in 1998 and was never the same player again for the Falcons, getting just 356 over the final three seasons of his career.

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