Curtis Martin carries the ball against the San Diego Chargers....

Curtis Martin carries the ball against the San Diego Chargers. (Jan. 8, 2005) Credit: AP

There were too many to count, and far more than Curtis Martin cared to admit.

The former Jets running back -- and 2012 Hall of Fame inductee -- admitted, with a smile, that his short-term memory isn't what it used to be because of concussions. But for all the reservations he once had about playing football, Martin wouldn't have approached the sport any other way. He hit the holes with a fire that left defenses in the dust and his teammates in awe. Even with weary legs and displaced bones in his shoulder, he doled out as much punishment as he took.

To play the game differently would have been unauthentic for Martin, 39, who paid a price for all that passion and dedication.

But it was worth it, he said.

"Physically, I'm fine, living a normal life,'' said Martin, who has a 7-month-old daughter named Ava with his wife, Carolina. "But I still need four surgeries. Both of my shoulders, both of my knees. I probably won't get them 'til my body forces me to do it. I don't like getting surgery.''

Martin -- seated among a dozen reporters in the back room of a Manhattan steakhouse Monday -- reluctantly discussed his concussion history. Acknowledging that the topic has become a hot-button issue, he simply said he's suffered "a lot'' of them.

"Definitely more than enough,'' said Martin, who totaled 14,101 rushing yards, the fourth most in NFL history. "Any time I didn't pop up, my fullback knew to come pick me up because I was either dazed or knocked out.''

But it's the nature of the game, he added matter-of-factly. Martin is confident that commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith will figure out ways to make the game safer. However, given the inherent competitive and violent nature of football, their hands are tied in a sense, Martin said.

"I don't think there's anything you can do to prevent it,'' he said of concussions. "What do you do? If you change that aspect of it, it's not football anymore. It's probably rugby or lacrosse.''

He vividly remembers the vicious hit he took from Bill Romanowski in the AFC Championship Game from the 1998 season in Denver -- a blow so violent, the running back "spun like a top'' and couldn't see straight. Almost with a sense of pride, however, Martin points out that that play can be seen on YouTube under "NFL's hardest hits.''

And there were other blows -- such as the time he was hit so hard by an Oakland Raider that he saw black -- literally. After getting knocked down, he stood up and gingerly made his way over to the wrong huddle.

"Somebody better come get him,'' Martin recalled a Raider shouting.

The Jets' coaching staff and trainers never knew when the mild-mannered Martin was out of it or not. And, naturally, the running back refused to let on, for fear of disappointing his teammates, and more importantly, fearing who would come in to replace him.

Though he has no regrets about the way he played the game -- nor has any fears about his long-term health ("Maybe that's me being naive,'' he said) -- Martin isn't so keen on his children playing football.

"If I had a son . . . I would really think about [playing football],'' he said. " . . . As an athlete, there's a certain part you have to accept, that certain things are going to happen.''

Though his business ventures keep him pretty busy, Martin has kept an eye on the current Jets, and he likes what he sees.

Martin -- who is exploring team ownership deals with the NFL, MLS and English Premier League, among other business opportunities -- said he supports the Jets' decision to sign backup quarterback Tim Tebow.

Martin has been impressed with Tebow and thinks his presence will bring out the best in Mark Sanchez.

"I don't know if my career would have been as good as it was without [running back] LaMont Jordan there on my heels all the time,'' Martin said "I don't think I would have won a rushing title in my 10th year. I think this could be a good thing for Mark. It could be that thing that pushes him to another level.''

And as far as Martin is concerned, there's no chance of a quarterback controversy overrunning the Jets' locker room.

"It's not like gangs, like Bloods and Crips. Or 'Twilight' -- 'Team Jacob' or 'Team Whatever.' It's not like that,'' Martin said. "In the NFL and in the locker rooms, the players are going to support whoever the coaches decide is the man to get the job. Right now, I just think Mark can get the job done . . . And time will tell.''

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