NEW YORK -- Were it not for his unwavering conviction that there is still some National Football League yardage to be squeezed out of his 30-year-old body, the last eight weeks would have been far less agonizing for former New York Giants running back Joe Morris.
In the eight weeks that have passed since Morris was waived by the Giants, he remains steadfast in his belief the time has not yet approached to simply release his dream of returning to the NFL and get on with his life. The conviction grows stronger each weekday morning, when he drives alone to a park near his home in Upper Saddle River, N.J., and runs laps and wind sprints; or when he lifts weights four times a week at a Ramsey, N.J., health club, or when he waits anxiously for a Monday morning phone call from some team willing to give him an opportunity to resume his career.
The end is near, Morris will readily concede, but he is certain it is not quite here.
"I know there is a time when you're done, when you should get out, but I would be the first to admit that," Morris told Newsday. "This has been very hard for me to accept. When you don't want to train, when you don't want to lift weights, to work hard to be successful, that's when you know it's time to get out. That's not happening with me. I just want to show people I can still play football. I know I can."
Clearly the most difficult part of his layoff is watching his former teammates play. Morris, the Giants' all-time leading rusher with 5,296 yards, often finds it too difficult to watch a Giants game from start to finish.
"When I get too frustrated, I go lift weights," he said. "I'm happy for them, but I want to get to a situation where I can be playing, too."
Morris came close to playing again the second week in October, when the 49ers flew him into San Francisco for a tryout when All-Pro running back Roger Craig went down with a torn posterior cruciate ligament. Morris was told by 49ers officials he was their first choice, but when Craig's injury did not require surgery, the 49ers decided not to replace him but instead to start untested rookie Dexter Carter.
However, a source told Newsday Wednesday that the 49ers, who were still having trouble with their ground game, reconsidered signing Morris two weeks ago. Still, there has been no further contact with Morris. Two weeks before his 49ers tryout, Morris was given a tryout with the Washington Redskins, and was told he would be given priority in the event of an injury to either Earnest Byner or Gerald Riggs. But neither has been hurt.
Nevertheless, the fact that two quality NFL teams showed interest has heartened Morris.
"I left both places feeling a lot better about myself," he said. "I know I can still play, even though some people have said things to the contrary. The Redskins and 49ers are well respected, and I know I did a good job."
Morris' quest to play again has not been assisted by his former coach, Bill Parcells, who once said he would do anything to help Morris find NFL employment.
"I don't believe some of the stuff that supposedly came from him that he would help me, because I don't believe that's something he would do," Morris said. "I think Parcells did what he felt was best for the team. I have a different opinion about that, but it's his team."
Morris believes his only opportunity to play this year is if a playoff contender needs an experienced runner.
"You hope that an opportunity will come about with a team going to the playoffs that needs a veteran running back," Morris said. "A losing team is more likely to go with younger guys."
In the event Morris is not picked up, he has prepared for his future by investing more time and money into the Joe Morris Printing Co., based in Fairlawn, N.J. Morris has contracts with several Bergen County, N.J., firms for various printing projects.
While hope of playing again recedes with each passing week, Morris keeps in mind the experience of former Giants nose tackle Jim Burt, who was forced into retirement last year but signed with the 49ers last Nov. 1. Less than three months later, he was a member of the Super Bowl champions.
"Burt was supposedly done, he went to San Francisco and he won the Super Bowl," Morris said. "That's the greatest scenario you could ever have."
Unfortunately for Morris, such a scenario -- for now -- remains painfully out of his grasp.