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Thurman Thomas worries Michael Turner will break down

Washington Redskins v Atlanta Falcons

ATLANTA - NOVEMBER 08: Michael Turner #33 of the Atlanta Falcons against the Washington Redskins at Georgia Dome on November 8, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Kevin C. Cox

Thurman Thomas knows what it’s like to be a workhorse NFL running back whose body eventually breaks down. When he looks at Falcons running back Michael Turner, he sees a player whose body won’t be able to take the wear and tear of being a workhorse back much longer.

While at an appearance in Georgia Thomas told the Atlanta Journal Constitution that the Falcons need to do a better job of keeping Turner fresh.

They need to start looking for another running back,” Thomas said. “Michael Turner, when you carry that ball 300 times a year for a few years, it puts some wear and tear on your body. I think they need another running back to give him a break every now and again.”

Turner has averaged more than 20 carries a game with the Falcons, with 888 rushing attempts in 43 games. That’s a tough pace to keep up.

Thomas does think, however, that Turner will benefit from playing in a dome. In fact, Thomas believes that if he had played in a dome during his career, he -- not Emmitt Smith -- would be the NFL’s all-time leading rusher.

“I talk to Emmitt and Barry Sanders a lot too,” Thomas said. “I said you know what, you guys have about two or three thousand yards more than I do, but come December I was playing in ice. I was playing in snow. If I was playing in Dallas or inside like Barry I’d probably would have another 3,000 yards. I could have been the all-time leading rusher if I didn’t play on ice, sleet and snow.”

For the record, Smith gained 6,281 more rushing yards than Thomas -- not “two or three thousand.” But even if Thomas is wrong about that, he may be right about Turner: The carries are quickly piling up, and the Falcons probably can’t expect many more 300-carry seasons from their workhorse back.