Dunn shows he's big enough to run for 10,000 yards

ATLANTA - Take that, all those folks who thought Warrick Dunn was too small to play in the NFL, who figured he would last no more than a year or two before they ran him out of the league - probably on a stretcher.

The diminutive running back may be '5-foot-nothing,' as teammate Ovie Mughelli jokingly put it, but he's at 11 years and counting, still carrying the ball fearlessly against defenders who look as though they could swallow him whole.

Today, Dunn could forever stamp himself as one of the toughest and most durable runners to play this game by joining the 10,000-yard club. At the moment, there are only 21 members of the exclusive group.

'I think I've surprised people over the years with how hard I run and how tough I am,' said Dunn, generously listed at 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds. 'I haven't worn down. Just to be at this point in my career, to me that says a lot to all the people who doubted me.'

Dunn's timing is impeccable, too.

He's just 58 yards from 10,000 with the Falcons (3-6) hosting the first-place Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-4), the team that drafted him out of Florida State in 1997 and made him a lead runner for the first five years of his career.

'It's weird,' Dunn said. 'A couple of weeks ago, people were saying this might happen. But the way things were going at the time, I thought it might take six more games to get there. It'll be crazy if it happens. I'm sure those guy don't want it to happen, not against Tampa.'

Indeed, personal accomplishments were the last thing on Dunn's mind when the Falcons lost six of their first seven games, a dismal start that could largely be traced to Michael Vick's dogfighting case.

Also, Dunn was struggling to come to grips with new coach Bobby Petrino's offensive system. It didn't fit the 32-year-old runner nearly as well as the West Coast system used by the previous staff.

During the Jim Mora era, Dunn had three straight 1,000-yard seasons and the team led the league in rushing each time. Through the first seven games this season, he had a paltry 292 yards and was averaging just over 3 yards per carry.

SideBar: Buccaneers at Falcons

When: Today, 1 p.m.

Where: Georgia Dome

TV/Radio: Fox/92.9-FM