Marino hasn't passed up a start since 1983

November 03, 1991|By Armando Salguero | Armando Salguero,Cox News Service

MIAMI -- The expensive cars, multimillion-dollar contract, cellular phones and other creature comforts have not stained the blue-collar work ethic Dan Marino brought into the NFL nine seasons ago.

Despite the toys, the passing records and his celebrity status, Marino still wakes up every Sunday morning and reports faithfully for work.

At record pace.

Today, when the Dolphins play the Indianapolis Colts in the Hoosier Dome, Marino will start his 117th consecutive non-strike game, breaking Ron Jaworski's record of 116 consecutive regular-season starts among quarterbacks since the AFL-NFL merger.

"It's something I'm really proud of because the team and the players know they can count on me to be there every week," Marino said earlier this week. "They know I can contribute every week in some way."

Marino missed the last two games of his rookie season in 1983 because of a knee sprain he suffered against Houston. Those are the only two games he has missed as a professional.

He started the first game of the 1984 season at Washington and hasn't missed a non-strike game since.

"It's amazing and a real credit to Dan's ability, toughness and durability," Dolphins coach Don Shula said. "In this day and age when defenses are so sophisticated that you don't even know where rushers are coming from and coverages are disguised better than ever, he's still got that uncanny knack to sense pressure and get the ball off."

And once the ball is away, Marino is able to absorb hits, lessening their potential damage to his body.

"I've always had the ability to keep my body loose when I take a hit and that has helped me," Marino said. "Often times a guy will throw the ball and be stiff and try to break his fall and that's how you break your wrists or arm or hurt your shoulders."

There have been moments during his career when it seemed Marino might have to miss a start because of injuries. Most of those came in 1989.

Two weeks before the season opener against Buffalo, Marino hurt his elbow when an obscure nose tackle named Mike Lambrecht got his helmet underneath the quarterback's throwing motion in practice.

Marino was forced to miss a week of practice before the game. Lambrecht, by the way, was waived. But Marino played, completing 25 of 38 for 255 yards against the Bills.

In November of the same season, Marino broke a rib against Dallas and missed the entire week of practice following the game. He played the following game against Pittsburgh with a protective flak jacket.

But he injured his shoulder against the Steelers, leaving the game in the fourth quarter. He missed several more weeks of practice but never a game.

"It got to the point where for about a month I was just playing every Sunday without practicing during the week," Marino said. "But I don't think I ever thought that I wouldn't be playing."

Marino's streak is twice as long as the next closest active quarterback. Jim Everett of the Los Angeles Rams has started 55 consecutive games.

"I know I've been fortunate," Marino said. "Injuries are always in the back of your mind because it could happen any time. But you really don't worry about it in the game."

Marino does make sure he doesn't expose himself more than necessary.

He scrambles only enough to avoid the pass rush but hardly ever to gain considerable yardage.

"I use my head when I run the ball," Marino said. "I try to get the first downs or get the necessary yards, but I also know enough to run out of bounds or slide and wait until the next play to get the first down."

Barring a freak practice injury, Marino will break the record although it will be laced with asterisks for several reasons.

First, records for consecutive games started were not kept by the NFL before 1976. Before that, the only records kept were for consecutive games played.

The only reason it is known that no streak was longer since the 1970 merger is because staffers in the Dolphins media relations department spent several days during the off-season researching the relevant data.

According to the NFL, defensive lineman Jim Marshall played in 282 consecutive games with Cleveland and Minnesota from 1960 to 1979, but it's impossible to determine if he started every game or was a special teams performer in one or any of those games.

The Elias Sports Bureau, which compiles such records for the NFL, also includes replacement games in their records.

As far as Elias is concerned, Marino has started 66 consecutive games since missing the three replacement games during the 1987 players' strike.

Recognition from the Elias Sports Bureau notwithstanding, Marino includes the streak as one of his best personal accomplishments.

"It's one of those things that you can always be proud of," he said.

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