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Martin won't play for Jets this season

Curtis Martin tried to outrun the inevitable.

After months of rehabilitation and countless hours working to get back on the field for the New York Jets, reality finally caught up to the NFL's No. 4 career rusher.

"I think this is as good as my knee gets, where it is right now," Martin said yesterday at a news conference in Hempstead, N.Y.

The Jets placed the 33-year-old Martin on the reserve physically-unable-to-perform list with a bone-on-bone condition in his right knee, ending his season before it ever got started and jeopardizing his career.

"I usually deal with things the way they are now, and with the information that I know about my future, it doesn't look like it's too bright as far as me having a further career," Martin said. "And if that happens, great."

This wasn't an official retirement announcement, but it sure looked like one, with cameras flashing every few seconds and at least two dozen reporters packed into the small media room.

"I'm officially not playing this year," Martin said. "Retirement -- that may be the inevitable result. I just haven't gotten there yet."

Merriman speaks out
Banished from the NFL for four weeks, Chargers star outside linebacker Shawne Merriman said he's not a steroid cheat. He also suggested he's a victim of the league's drug testing policy.

Merriman dropped by Chargers headquarters to address teammates before beginning a four-game suspension for testing positive for the steroid nandrolone. He and his attorney have blamed a tainted supplement. The second-year pro, tied for the NFL lead with 8 1/2 sacks, dropped his appeal Tuesday, after which the league announced his suspension. Merriman could have gone through with a hearing Nov. 7.

"Yes, I did something unknowingly, but at the same time I did something that was against the policy," said Merriman, who refused to identify the supplement that led to the positive test, saying only it's an over-the-counter supplement. "I think right now was an important time for me to pull the appeal based on all the facts and all the information we have received.

"I'm not a cheater. I don't believe in cheating the game . . . I have no reason to cheat the game."

QB able, but ready?
Jaguars quarterback Byron Leftwich returned to practice and declared himself healthy enough to play Sunday against Tennessee, but coach Jack Del Rio sidestepped the quarterback situation, fueling speculation he may stick with mobile backup David Garrard . . . The Titans suspended cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones for one game without pay as punishment for his long list of off-field incidents . . . Reggie Bush's sprained ankle kept him out of practice, but the running back insisted he is fine and plans to practice the rest of the week heading into the Saints' game Sunday against Tampa Bay . . . Giants receiver Plaxico Burress left practice early with back spasms and has been listed as probable for Sunday's game against Houston . . . Texans defensive end Mario Williams did not practice because of a sore right arch, but coach Gary Kubiak said Williams will play Sunday. The Texans also claimed cornerback Dexter Wynn off waivers from Philadelphia and released cornerback Derrick Johnson.

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