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Thursday, October 31, 2013
Why is Ben Tate so tough?

By Tania Ganguli

HOUSTON -- "My dad likes to think I get it from him," Ben Tate said, shrugging his shoulders. "Whatever, I think I'm just tough."

The Texans' backup running back played through four broken ribs against the Kansas City Chiefs. Had the Texans had another option, the Texans might have shut down Tate. But they were without any other true running back after a hamstring injury ended Arian Foster's game.

Tate's father might have a bit of a point.

"I remember I wrecked my dirt bike and my dad made me go to practice the same day," Tate said. "It was pretty painful. He was like you wrecked your dirt bike doing something dumb, so you gotta go to practice."

This is a particularly interesting conversation given his 2012 season and how some characterized it. He missed five games because of injuries and was used much less than the previous year. Coach Gary Kubiak commented in one news conference that he needed Tate back on the field. In another last November, Kubiak said: "Actually, I thought Ben would no doubt be back on the field Monday. He had two good days of work last week but he complained of soreness again yesterday, so I don’t know."

Earlier this season offensive coordinator Rick Dennison indicated that Tate's injuries kept him from getting into a rhythm last season. When I relayed that at the time, Tate chuckled. I didn't get the sense he agreed.

Because teams often hide the severity of players' injuries, I'm never one to question a guy's toughness in the NFL. The word "sore" can mean anything from a minor bruise to a broken bone. That means you often don't know the extent of what a guy is going through.

If you want a number that quantifies toughness for a running back, it's probably yards after contact. Tate's 2.76 yards after contact rank first in the NFL. It's relatively significantly higher than Washington's Alfred Morris who is second with 2.33 yards after contact per rush and Minnesota's Adrian Peterson, who's third with 2.27.

Tate was asked how the fact that he's in a contract year figures in. He said it doesn't.

He thinks he's always been a guy able to handle a great deal of pain. Playing depends on a combination of pain tolerance and what the trainers agree to let someone do. It's that and a perspective on the future that pushes him through.

"I always like to say I'm a different breed," Tate said. "I'm like Wolverine. ... I just take pride in being there and being able to help my team if I can go. It's painful, but when you sign up to do what we do, you're going to go through pain.

"This opportunity only lasts -- hopefully, maybe, I can get 10 years out of it. So just try to make the best of it while you're here. Fifteen years from now, everybody will be forgotten about."