Look at this man. Take a nice, long look at him. As you can see, he's relaxed. He's enjoying himself. He's on top of the world. And to be honest, he should be. He just got a nice $1.45 million dollar bonus, the result of hard work and overcoming adversity. This man, casually stretching in this photograph, is now the starting running back for the best offense in the NFL. If he were to say something, I'm sure he would state the following:
Yes, when Tom speaks passionately about how scientology can truly help you kick a drug addition, it makes me want to go out a buy 5 billion copies of MI: 3's DVD.
But, I digress.
Probably the most watched training camp battle this pre-season will be who performs better: veteran Dominic Rhodes (pictured above) or the highly-touted rookie first-round pick from LSU, Joseph Addai. Now, in all fairness to Dominic Rhodes, one has to give him credit for what he has accomplished. Rhodes was an undrafted free agent rookie in 2001. When Edgerrin James went down with a knee injury, Rhodes assumed the starting job and ran for a record 1,100 yards and 10 TDs in just 10 games. No free agent rookie RB had ever done that before.
When Edge returned, Rhodes went back to being a back-up, where he performed well. However, last year, Rhodes admitted he was "cheating himself" and his teammates by not being a good teammate. And yet, despite this admission, the Colts front office and Tony Dungy remain adament Rhodes is the starter.
Despite Dom's odd tics and his admission to dogging it last year, I do like him. Throughout most of his career, he has worked very hard and performed well when called upon. He deserves to get consideration for the starting RB job.
However, and mark this down, Rhodes will not be the starting RB by Week 8. Addai will.
Tony Dungy has a very simple, and very effective, formula for rookies: don't work them to death. From what folks are saying, Addai is having an outstanding offseason. He's impressed the media, his teammates, and his coaches. Dungy knows what Addai can do. He knows Addai's talent and character. He also knows that if he starts him opening day, Addai will run out of gas by Week 8. This is not a question of Addai's toughness or durability. All rookies, especially rookie running backs, hit that "wall" by Week 8. Jon Gruden would have been wise to know this last season. He nearly ran Carnell "Cadillac" Williams into the ground (which is why he was hurt for part of last season).
Dungy will have Rhodes start the first half of the season. Then, somewhere around Week 8, Addai will take over. During Training Camp though, it will be interesting to see how Rhodes responds to competition from Addai. Addai has praised Rhodes for helping him during mini-camp and the offseason. Despite being handed the starting job, Rhodes has an awful lot to prove. When all is said and done, the competition between these two will only make them, and the team, better.