Seahawks' Warren shines amid the doom and gloom

November 24, 1992|By Seattle Times

SEATTLE -- The sun shines even in a disaster area. Even in the most hopeless seasons, a sliver of optimism slices the gloom. Even a record-breaking season of incompetence can give birth to a star.

"Chris Warren is proving he is one of the up-and-coming young backs in this league," Seattle Seahawks coach Tom Flores said.

Let's take care of the messy particulars first. The Seahawks lost Sunday night for the 10th time in 11 games, a dreary 24-14 debacle against Kansas City.

Kelly Stouffer proved he is not one of the up-and-coming young quarterbacks in the National Football League, throwing four more interceptions, losing another fumble.

But Warren, the most impressive combination of muscle and speed the Seahawks' backfield has seen, ran for a career-high 154 yards, averaging 7.7 yards a carry.

This is his third pro season, but his first as the Seahawks' main offensive weapon. He has 728 rushing yards and, with five games remaining, he is a threat to become the second Seahawks back to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season. In this year of gloom, you take your mini-victories wherever you can find them.

"How many yards does Chris Warren have for the year?" guard Andy Heck asked after the game. "It would be great if we could get him 1,000 yards. We haven't had a back get that since I've been here."

Heck has been watching Warren for years. Somewhere in the Heck family archives is a video tape of Andy and his brother, linebackers for Woodson High School in Fairfax, Va., being dragged into the end zone by Robinson High's Chris Warren.

And somewhere in rookie tackle Ray Roberts' memory are pictures of Warren running counters when they were teammates for a year at the University of Virginia.

"We ran the counter a lot at Virginia. It was one of our favorite plays," Roberts said. "It's funny because that's what was working today.

"The difference in Chris from Virginia to here is the way he runs between the tackles. In college, you can use your speed a lot more because the guys on the outside aren't as fast. He could bounce it outside easily. Now he is putting his shoulders straight up the field and moving people, or making a hole, or just hitting the pile and moving it a few yards."

Warren is a pro's prototype. A sprinter's speed. A bodybuilder's physique. A Puritan's work ethic.

"He had one of the fastest 40 times at Virginia," Roberts said. "But the coaches were always on him because it didn't look like he was running fast. He would outrun everybody, but he would do it so effortlessly the coaches would always be on him to run harder. He is just so smooth and fluid in everything he does."

Smooth as syrup. Packing a punch like Riddick Bowe's. He outran Kansas City's ground troika of Barry Word, Harvey Williams and Christian Okoye. In the NFL's American Football Conference, running backs Barry Foster in Pittsburgh and Thurman Thomas in Buffalo are at the head of the class. Warren is as good as any of the rest.

Marty Schottenheimer, Kansas City coach, said, "When we talked about Chris Warren in our preparation, I made this statement: You never see anybody knock him backward.

"He seems always to fall forward. It was a point we talked about during the week. . . .But that young man is one fine running back."

Somehow Warren, 25, has kept his concentration through two months of defeats. He has taken the pounding from head-hunting linebackers and cornerbacking scythes.

Three yards off tackle. Eight yards around end. A 15-yard breakaway. He has taken a beating, moved the ball and then seen Stouffer give it up with ill-chosen pass after ill-chosen pass.

He has continued to fight through the sickening Sundays of defeat. And through the fog of all the losses, a running back has emerged. Warren is the Seahawks' one-man offense.

"Of course, your confidence rises when you get some 100-yard games against some pretty good teams," Warren said after his third 100-yard effort of the season. "I still feel pretty fresh. It was tough waiting around for two years for my chance to come. But I would say I've opened a few eyes. It's just a matter of me getting a chance to play.

"I've always had confidence in my ability. Now it's time for me to show the rest of the league that I'm for real.

"It's tough when you're losing this many games."

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