Chiefs' Jamaal Charles fighting running back ageism


Jamaal Charles enters his eighth season knowing that he's close to fighting for his football life.

Charles will turn 29 in December, inching him closer to the dreaded 30-year-old mark that seems to doom running backs. The Kansas City Chiefs back, however, plans to fight positional ageism.

"Football is changing, sports are just changing," he said, via the team's official website. "You can see basketball, like Kobe Bryant, he is still playing at 36. You see Tim Duncan. I think back in the days you couldn't play for long because there were a lot of people that didn't know the fundamentals of hitting, running people over. That's not my form."

Coming off his third straight 1,000-plus-yard season (and franchise-leading fifth of his career), Charles said he feels 20 or 21 years old and believes that modern medicine combined with better dieting and workouts will allow him to play deeper into his career than other running backs.

"I want to play another six years so, my form is to keep on taking my diet," he said. "I'm seeing guys at 37 or 38 still playing football in the trenches and that's somewhere where you don't want to play. So I just want to change the game with the running backs. I want this to last longer and then when I retire, I'll be happy with where I end my career at."

Six more seasons would put Charles at 34 in his final year. It's not unheard of for a running back to be productive into his mid-30s. Fred Jackson is still churning away in Buffalo at 34. Marcus Allen famously made a Pro Bowl and scored 12 touchdowns as a 33-year-old runner. Emmitt Smith went for more than 900 yards in his final season at 35 years old.

Still, running backs can fall off the ledge quicker than any position -- just ask recently retired 30-year-old Maurice Jones-Drew. In today's NFL, most teams would rather go with a younger, cheaper option than hang onto an over-30 veteran.

There is zero reason to believe Charles is standing on the edge of his career cliff this season or even next. The last two years of his six-year goal will be when he really proves if he's "changed the game."

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