Raiders' Allen rushes back to forefront Jackson ruled out for Sunday, putting load on veteran back

January 17, 1991|By Mike Preston

He was almost the Raider of the lost identity.

At one time, running back Marcus Allen was the second most popular sports figure in Los Angeles, behind only Magic Johnson. Then, along came Bo Jackson in 1986.

Jackson was famous when he came to Los Angeles. He had won a Heisman Trophy. He played two sports at the professional level. He made millions of dollars. He broke bats over his head. Bo knew everything, even how to make Allen No. 2 on the depth chart.

Until Sunday.

That's when Jackson was injured, spraining his left hip on the second play of the third quarter against the Cincinnati Bengals, a 34-yard run that gave him 77 yards for the day on six carries.

The Raiders needed someone to carry the load. Allen answered the call.

He'll get the call again Sunday because Raiders physician Robert Rosenfeld yesterday ruled Jackson out of Sunday's American Football Conference title game against the host Buffalo Bills.

You remember Allen, don't you? Former Raiders No. 1 draft pick. Super Bowl XVIII MVP turned part-time player. Heisman Trophy winner, too.

Well, he rushed for 140 yards on 21 carries, including 52 in the final, time-consuming drive as the Raiders defeated the Bengals,

20-10, Sunday.

"Marcus Allen has been the consummate team player," Shell said. "It's just the kind of football he has been playing throughout his career."

"I've said it before and I'll say it again: Marcus Allen is the toughest guy in the league," said Raiders defensive lineman Howie Long.

The last time Allen, 6 feet 2 and 205 pounds, was making such positive headlines was in Super Bowl XVIII in 1984 when the Raiders beat the Washington Redskins, 38-9, in Tampa, Fla. He rushed for 191 yards, including a 74-yard touchdown run, both then Super Bowl records.

Allen rushed for more than 1,000 yards from 1983 to '85, but since Jackson came along in 1987, his best season has been 831 yards, in 1988.

Allen started the first five games of the 1989 season, then was placed on injured reserve. He returned for the last three games, finishing with only 293 yards on 69 carries. Jackson, meanwhile, had 950 yards on 89 carries.

Those numbers started to crowd Allen out of the backfield. Last June, the Raiders traded draft choices to the Los Angeles Rams to get running back Greg Bell, who had rushed for more than 1,000 yards his two previous seasons.

There was talk that Allen had demanded a trade. When the season started, he was on the bench behind starting tailback Vance Mueller.

Allen became the starter, but in early October, trade rumor No. 2 was making the rounds.

Allen to the San Francisco 49ers.

When the trade deadline passed in mid-October, he still was a Raider and said he never planned to be anything else.

"It's always made interesting copy for you guys about Bo and I," said Allen, who has been voted four "Commitment to Excellence" awards by his teammates for "the player who best exemplifies the pride, poise and spirit of the Raiders."

"There was never a question in our minds that it would work. We can handle it. The team transcends Bo and I."

Most of the Raiders say Allen, who usually starts, handled the situation with Jackson well.

"Marcus is a Raider through and through," said teammate and linebacker Jerry Robinson. "He has handled everything in a professional manner, and there aren't a lot of people who could have done that. We haven't had a problem inside the house. In this house, we're fine."

Allen's role this season has been that of the soft guy (179 carries, 3.8 average) loosening up defenses for Jackson (125, 5.6).

That was, until Sunday. He's back in prime time now.

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