In the line of duty, McKenzie does it all

October 19, 1990|By Jack Mann | Jack Mann,Evening Sun Staff

*TC HERNDON, Va. -- The world little noted nor long remembered anything Raleigh McKenzie did for the Washington Redskins Sunday except the thing he didn't do.

"Wow-ee," McKenzie said when reminded of the "false-start" penalty that helped turn a touchdown opportunity into a field goal early in the third quarter. Seven minus three is four, the New York Giants' victory margin.

"I don't think I moved until after Bostic snapped the ball," McKenzie said of center Jeff Bostic, then at his left elbow.

"Rollo did not move," coach Joe Gibbs declared after seeing the films. "No way."

In fact he played all 48 of the Redskins' downs without a mistake. But it remains Raleigh McKenzie's lot in this the sixth year of his NFL career that he is not given credit for the things he does -- even by his peers -- because he does so many things.

McKenzie will play right guard again Sunday, against the Eagles in RFK Stadium (1 p.m., Ch. 11), unless he has to replace Russ Grimm at left guard, or Bostic at center. Occasionally Rollo has played all three of his positions in one game. Played some left tackle in the two games Jim Lachey missed last year, too.

Having started 37 of 46 games the past three seasons, McKenzie might have assumed he'd be a starter this year. Not necessarily, he found in preseason training.

"Coach [Jim] Hanifan said he would look on me as a starter," McKenzie said. "He said to be patient. We were going to rotate [the seven offensive linemen] and I'd be competing."

So the starting middle of the line, left to right, were veterans Russ Grimm and Bostic and second-year man Mark Schlereth. "Well, Mark finished last year as a starter," Hanifan explained. "And we weren't sure about Russ, with his [frequently injured] knee."

And Hanifan, for all his 29 coaching years, was part of threplacement of Joe Bugel, who 11 months ago had taken Schlereth on a comradely walk around the practice field in the twilight and expressed "a lot of confidence" in the young man. Everybody knew the kid from Alaska could bench-press 465 and run 40 yards in 4.7 seconds, but Bugel told him he could play football.

"And Rollo could play all three," Hanifan said. So Schlereth started at right guard and McKenzie became what he calls "Bobby Jones."

He became a fan of the 76ers' classic Sixth Man after being attracted to the team by Dr. J, McKenzie said. And being a super-sub wasn't so bad, he reasoned. He was demoted to supernumerary late in '88 when Grimm came back from still another knee injury. McKenzie looked at it this way:

"I'd rather play behind two guys like Russ and Mark [May], and sit on the bench, than to play every day on an inferior team."

Even during the past month, when he sat on the bench a lot during the Dallas and (second) Phoenix games, McKenzie was patient. The money's good, and having a job was more comforting yesterday after Rollo talked with his big brother (three minutes older), Reggie, who was released by the Cardinals after a year and a half of idleness with knee surgery.

Anyway, Rollo seems to have steady work. Hanifan last week reached the conclusion that he was too good to sit. "He's about the best pass blocker we have," Hanifan said after the Giants game. "Fine hands, good balance."

No down-grading of Schlereth was implied, Hanifan said. "I talked to Mark and explained that Rollo had accepted the role and we expected the same of him."

"He told me after the first meeting last week," Schlereth said. "He said Rollo's got six years, I've got two. He said he wasn't unhappy with my playing. That's all he said."

In the Giants game, Schlereth, considered an emerging star by the end of last season, stood idle all day, except for his role on the field-goal teams.

Once in the first quarter Schlereth had his helmet on and was running onto the field before Grimm, as Hanifan put it, "shooed him off." Things seemed to be working, Hanifan said, "and I didn't want to experiment."

McKenzie, with all his sideline time, could understand. "Hanifan said he was going to work me into those other games," Rollo said. "But a lot of times it's the way the game is flowing. You get that rhythm going and it's hard to rekindle."

Rational as he can be about his ever-changing role, McKenzie feels an incompleteness. "Sometimes I think about what it would be like to be fixed, at one position," he said.

"But then," Rollo said with a wry smile, "I suppose I'd have to get used to that, too."

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