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SI.com article on Turner


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FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Falcons running back Michael Turner thinks back to last offseason and shakes his head. Then he laughs. It's not that kind of down-in-the-belly guffaw that comes from remembering something funny. It's the nervous, uncomfortable chuckle that rises when confronted with an embarrassing moment from your past.

"If you go back and look at some pictures of me from last year at this time, I probably looked big -- a lot bigger than normal," Turner says sheepishly while kicking back after a recent organized team activity. "I was heavy, too heavy. It was hard for me to overcome."

Turner didn't need the photos to know he was well past the 250 pounds that appeared next to his name on the roster. He knew things had changed when he struggled to pull his practice jersey over his midsection. It wasn't as bad as a woman falling on her back and wiggling her way into a pair of jeans that are two sizes too small, but it was close.

The extra weight wasn't the primary reason Turner ran for only 871 yards last season -- a high ankle sprain was the leading culprit. It sidelined him for five games and parts of two others. Still Turner believes the added weight didn't help him, which is why he reported for offseason workouts this year at a legitimate 250. Now the Falcons are hoping he turns back the clock to 2008, when after being signed as a free agent from San Diego he finished No. 2 in the league with 1,699 yards rushing and 17 touchdowns in his first season as a fulltime starter.

"I feel great," Turner says after downing a bottle of Gatorade. "I'm out there running around and feel like I can run all day. I'm definitely out to prove that I'm not a a one-year wonder. I don't want to be one of those guys that people say, 'Oh, yeah. He had one good year, but what happened to him after that?' I want to keep putting back-to-back seasons together."

Turner's carries were limited his first four seasons, when he was a backup to LaDainian Tomlinson. He did not have more than 80 carries in any season. But the Falcons steadily fed the football to their bruising halfback. He had 376 carries in 2008 -- 148 more than he had for his career with the Chargers -- and played a key role in Atlanta reaching the playoffs.

Turner showed no wear and tear during the season, but he felt it after a playoff loss to Arizona. "My body was tired and wanted rest," he says. "It needed to recuperate. I didn't want to just kill it year in and year out; I wanted to let it recover before going back and working out. At the same time, if I'm going to do that I have to watch what I eat. I have to cut out all the greasy foods. I didn't do that."

This year Turner has been extremely conscious of his diet, planning it out for weeks at a time. He also has been a regular at the training facility, even when nothing is scheduled. He even made plans to continue his workouts after OTAs conclude.

Coach Mike Smith believes Turner might be in the best shape of his Falcons career. The seventh-year pro basically has not had any time off, because the ankle injury that cut short his 2009 season required him to come in for rehab early in the offseason.

"Michael has been working extremely hard," Smith says. "He is the type of guy that has a lot of pride about him, and he wants to [perform] this season like he had in Year 1 with us. But, you know, I probably made a mistake with him last year. Michael wanted to play and come back in the worst way against the Bucs [after sitting out a week with the high ankle sprain]; and he came back and made it through the first quarter but got injured again. If I had to do it over again, I wouldn't have put him out there. He was like the competitor that you want all of your players to be; he was in my ear saying, 'I'm ready. I want to get back out there.' You love that, but maybe sometimes you have to step back. That was a good learning experience for me as a head coach."

Smith also realized that he doesn't want to run his workhorse into the ground. The third-year coach won't divulge details, but he says there will be "parameters" on how often Turner carries the ball this season. The Falcons won't go into a game saying he'll be restricted, but they do want to be more conscious of the physical pounding Turner takes. The last thing anyone wants is for him to need an extra long recovery period in the offseason. There are photos to remind the Falcons of how that worked out last time, even if Turner doesn't want to look at them.

Read more: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2010/writers/jim_trotter/06/22/michael.turner/index.html#ixzz0rbO8T7Bu

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I think Turner runs for 1200 / 10 or 12 TD's this season. He def gets back to form.

I think 10 or 12 TD's is way underrating Turner. In 2008, he scored 17 TD's. In 2009, he essentially missed 8 games and still scored 10 TD's.

I would be willing to bet he goes over 15 TDs this year.

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I think Turner runs for 1200 / 10 or 12 TD's this season. He def gets back to form.

He had 10 TD's last year, I think he gets back to form. This year 1700 to 1800 yards 20 TDs. I think our breaks the top 5 this year. We have the talent, we are just a young team.

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I think 10 or 12 TD's is way underrating Turner. In 2008, he scored 17 TD's. In 2009, he essentially missed 8 games and still scored 10 TD's.

I would be willing to bet he goes over 15 TDs this year.

I agree, he'll probably get somewhere in the 1200-1400 yard range with about 15-18 TDs. Turner is a BEAST in the red zone and is like a bloodhound when it comes to sniffing the goal line.

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It's funny a guy with 10 TD's that missed almost 8 games can said to be having an off year. He started off slow but was still getting the TD's had he not missed the 8 games he may have hit 20 TD's and 1800 YDS even with his slow start.

Edited by SYD
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I think 10 or 12 TD's is way underrating Turner. In 2008, he scored 17 TD's. In 2009, he essentially missed 8 games and still scored 10 TD's.

I would be willing to bet he goes over 15 TDs this year.

Good point Tandy, I agree they will definitely use him in goal line stands which helps him get TD's.

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It's funny a guy with 10 TD's that missed almost 8 games can said to be having an off year. He started off slow but was still getting the TD's had he not missed the 8 games he may have hit 20 TD's and 1800 YDS even with his slow start.

I agree. He was really starting to light it up around the time he first got injured. Even with "limited" carries, I think he'll get around 1400 yards and 18 TDs this season.

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I agree. He was really starting to light it up around the time he first got injured. Even with "limited" carries, I think he'll get around 1400 yards and 18 TDs this season.

Agreed. He was really turning it up, and that was the worst possible time to get hurt. If he doesnt get hurt in the Carolina game, he was well on his way to over 200 yds. He averaged 4.9 ypc last year. Pretty good for a slump.

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It was good to see Turner Re Dedicate himself to the game and the position.

(ref. Walter Payton)

I also liked seeing Smitty man up and admit he made a mistake putting Turner back in too early. Its awesome that he not only learned from the mistake, but wasnt afraid to admit it was a mistake. Smitty is a smart man. So much to be proud of with this team as a fan.

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a high ankle sprain was the leading culprit. It sidelined him for five games and parts of two others.

The high ankle sprain was due to a helmet hit to his ankle because, IMHO that he was slower than the previous year. His weight did affect his footwork and speed. This year will be much different. He will be fleet footed and lift his feet after ground contact faster causing many misses especially when he plays the Jets again. Turner will be a force to be reckoned with this year. He is on a mission to disprove the doubters. I for one can not wait to see him drag (multiple) defenders 10 - 15 yards as he works his way to a TD!

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Does anyone else want to see him trade 30-40 carries for passes out of the backfield? We had an earlier thread where Ryan was talking about being better at the checkdown pass.

Imagine Turner catching the ball in empty space, imagine D coordinators having to plan for one more wrinkle, imagine him getting less punishment because he's tackled by smaller opponents.

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Does anyone else want to see him trade 30-40 carries for passes out of the backfield? We had an earlier thread where Ryan was talking about being better at the checkdown pass.

Imagine Turner catching the ball in empty space, imagine D coordinators having to plan for one more wrinkle, imagine him getting less punishment because he's tackled by smaller opponents.

I would LOVE to see Turner catching some balls out of the backfield. Since his season high for receptions is something like 6-8, I doubt that ever happening.

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I would LOVE to see Turner catching some balls out of the backfield. Since his season high for receptions is something like 6-8, I doubt that ever happening.

There's hope- first four years he was a part time player, in 08 it was Ryan's first year, injuries derailed last year- so, it's possible that part of the game can develop for him.

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