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Redskins' Morris making a run at 1,000

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Sports,NFL,Redskins,John Keim

Rookie running back 18 yards shy

ASHBURN -- He went from training camp curiosity -- could he really start? -- to feel-good story. The late-round pick who piled up yards, attracted attention, yet refused to part with his 21-year-old car. The kid who doesn't like even the hint of cursing. Too good to be true.

Except Redskins running back Alfred Morris isn't too good to be true. He's just too good. And after Monday night he could become the second Redskins rookie to surpass 1,000 yards. In fact, Morris is on pace to rush for 1,428 yards, which would be the fourth most in franchise history.

"The guy just runs hard," Redskins left guard Kory Lichtensteiger said. "You can count on him making the first guy miss every time. The way he finishes runs, it's pretty special."

Early in the season, it appeared Morris benefited greatly from Robert Griffin III's presence. Turns out it's actually a mutual benefit. When the Redskins played the New York Giants in October, for example, at least two of Griffin's runs around the end occurred because the defensive ends paid too much attention to Morris. It has happened often.

"We have so many weapons that you can't key on just one aspect of our game," Morris said. "You're setting yourself up for failure."

Add it up and it equals a big rookie season.

"He can get 1,600 [yards] or 1,700 if he wants," Redskins center Will Montgomery said. "He can get 2,000. The guy's amazing."

The linemen already are (playfully) pestering Morris about what they expect from him after the season: Rolexes, maybe a Segway, anything expensive. Morris, still driving a 1991 Mazda 626, is thinking a nice dinner. And while he's not focused on 1,000 yards, he does know what it means.

"It would be a big honor with such a storied franchise," Morris said. "I didn't even know I would make the team. So for me doing this would show it's really not where you come from or what you can do on a test. You can't measure a man's heart. All I needed was an opportunity. It's been a fun ride."

Morris reached this point because he learned how to run in the NFL. His ability to press the hole -- making it appear he was hitting one hole, only to cut back -- consistently forces linebackers to overcommit and allows his blockers to seal cutback lanes. He breaks tackles. Morris makes in-game adjustments, spotting vs. Atlanta, for example, that linebacker Sean Weatherspoon liked to overpursue to the outside. So Morris set him up by running wide. Weatherspoon reacted accordingly, and Morris cut back inside at the last moment for a 29-yard gain.

But he's also smart about his body. Morris said earlier this week that he does things now that he didn't in college such as soak in cold tubs, use a foam roll stretch on his legs after practice and have weekly massages.

"In college you couldn't pay me to get in the cold tub," he said.

"It's not a pleasure massage. I'm sure all that stuff is helping me last through the season. I feel great. I feel built for this. It's not being cocky or arrogant. I can take a lot of beating. It's a long season. People say hit the rookie wall. I don't know what the rookie wall is. I haven't met it yet."

Nobody would disagree.

"He plays hard and runs so hard, and I've never seen him wear down at all," Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said. "He's been strong all year."

jkeim@washingtonexaminer.com

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