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Barry Sanders says featured-back role isn't dead

On the football field, few commanded the attention of a defense like Barry Sanders. His 15,269 rushing yards ranks third all-time in NFL history behind Emmitt Smith and Walter Payton.

Sanders told The Dan Patrick Show he doesn't believe he would accumulate those totals in today's NFL, but the former Lions star said there's still a place for the feature back.

"It depends on where you go," Sanders said Monday. "You look at some teams and they still utilize the running back, as opposed to other teams ... obviously, it's a passing game and you got the dual running back situation on a lot of teams. But there's still some teams that beat you with a running back.

"... If you're a premiere runner, then (it's) not that different."

Let's take a look some numbers here: Sanders played from 1989-1998. During those seasons, he led the league in rushing four times. Smith also took the title four times during that span. Christian Okoye and Terrell Davis each won once. The leading rusher during Sanders' career averaged 1,682 yards.

Over the past 10 seasons, the leading rusher has averaged 1,777 yards.

How about the past five, as we move closer to the running-back-by-committee craze? 1,692 yards -- 10 yards more than the Sanders era.

There might not be as many feature backs today, but the position is far from extinct.

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