“To all my haters: Alfred Morris understands football, all right? A back like Alfred Morris didn’t just get picked in the sixth round out of Florida Atlantic for nothing, okay?”
Otherwise, how will we recognize him as a big-time back? This humble young man is just too much of a culture shock right now. The most durable, rough-and-tumble regular in the Redskins backfield since Clinton Portis is so much unlike Portis — so much like any offensive prima donna entering the league leading with his bravado — you don’t know what to make of him.
“I’m just blessed,” he said genuinely Monday night, another game in which Morris flew under the radar that tracks Robert Griffin III’s water breaks and beyond.
Really, you can’t just puzzle and pummel the defending Super Bowl champions for 244 yards in two games, rush for more yards than any rookie in team history, put your head and shoulders down as you run the clock out on Monday night against the New York Giants and then shrug your shoulders to say, “I’m so grateful, so thankful. It’s such a blessing to be here. I’ll never take this for granted. It just solidified even more that I’ll never take this for granted.”
Come on, Alfred, Barry Sanders already did that.
You can’t just roll up to practice in your silver, 1991 Mazda 626 sedan — with a Kelley blue book value of roughly $1,200 — and refuse to upgrade your vehicle because the car you’ve named “Bentley” means too much to you to give it up. Bentley has no shot at being on “Pimp My Ride.” Bentley won’t even make it in an Easterns Motors commercial, let alone have a carburetor that purrs in third person.
The truth: Without Morris, there is no memorable rookie year for Griffin — and vice versa. They are dependent on one another.
Without Griffin’s fleet and flash and ball deception that already rivals Tom Brady’s play-action skills, the defense waits for Morris. Without the shifty and strong Morris, RGIII has one less dimension with which to fool his pursuers, one less weapon to take the considerable load on himself.
In many ways, it’s the perfect 1-2, quarterback-running back punch: One guy soaks in the attention and adulation; the other is fine just to be here.
Morris’s worst rookie nightmare came to fruition Monday night when he fumbled inside the 10-yard line in the second half of a nip-and-tuck game with the Giants. The underdog who beat out an injured Tim Hightower, Roy Helu and Evan Royster to become perhaps the biggest surprise of training camp had all those old small-school, sixth-round, what-if-they-don’t-believe-in-me demons creeping up on him as the game wore on.
When his number was called again and again — when Griffin looked at him in the huddle during the final, clock-killing drive and said, “Go take us home,” when he ran the ball down the Giants’ gullet three straight times to end it — Morris wasn’t pumping his chest out to show the world he had done it. No, he was quietly saying thanks to the people who decided he was still the best person on the team to carry the football.
“It means a lot,” Morris said. “I came from nowhere, out of nothing. Just to earn their trust, earn their respect enough for them to one, put me in as a starter, and two, even after I make a mistake, to leave me in there and put the game in my hands, you know, that was huge. I can’t thank them enough.”
Morris said they used to call him, “A-Train” at Florida Atlantic for his physical running style, among other nicknames. “I got so many. Brucey. Alphanator. Chicken Alfredo. Alfredo. Alfie. I forgot half of them.”
He should come up with something that’s phonetically easy for fans to chant through the corridors of FedEx Field after the game, the way they chant “RGIII! RGIII!” after the most gratifying win of a season that now has real possibility — because Morris is becoming that special in the backfield, that crucial to their success.
As for the diva demeanor — the bling, a $100,000 sports car or two and the third-person rants — eh, maybe it can wait. Maybe the new fixture at running back in Washington can just be the refreshing mix of humility and hungry sixth-round rookie the Redskins desperately needed.
“I’m just thankful I got drafted,” Morris said, going on 1 a.m. Tuesday morning. “Because I could have gone undrafted. We were 1-11 at Florida Atlantic. I came from a smaller school, too. I had a lot of stuff against me. Be honest, I wasn’t supposed to get drafted. That’s what the experts said.”