New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick probably knows as much about the New York Jets as anyone not connected with the team. What he doesn't know is how healthy Curtis Martin will be for tonight's game.
Martin sprained his left knee last week in a 20-16 victory at Green Bay, a game that saw him play a typically valuable role. He carried 30 times for 110 yards and a touchdown, and he was the team's leading receiver with six catches, including a 3-yard reception for the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter.
There's little doubt he will play against the Patriots, but Jets coach Al Groh admitted Martin did very little running in practice until Thursday. Martin did not talk with the media all week.
But Belichick is aware Martin's primary backup at running back is 32-year-old Bernie Parmalee. Groh said if Martin were injured, the Jets would use a combination of Parmalee and fullbacks Richie Anderson and Jerald Sowell to replace him.
Essentially, however, Martin is irreplaceable.
"Curtis is one of the most important parts of our team, not just because of his production, but I think it is very important every year, every team has to find its heart," Groh said. "Very clearly, Curtis is one of those players that we go to see where the heart of the team is. And that's what he was on Sunday for us."
Belichick, the Jets' defensive coordinator for three years who turned down their coaching job to take the same post with the Patriots, said he has plenty to worry about besides Martin.
"This is a well-balanced team," Belichick said. "You better start with stopping Kevin Mawae, the best center in the league. Vinny is a tremendous quarterback. Curtis Martin is as good as it gets.
"Wayne Chrebet has done as much in his career as any receiver in terms of number of catches and third-down conversions. So this is a well-balanced team offensively, and I don't think you can just gear up and stop one guy."