Allen hopes new start ends in Super Bowl

January 22, 1994|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Staff Writer

Al Davis is behind him now and so, too, is the cold war that never thawed.

For Marcus Allen, few things in football have been as sweet as starting over this season with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Here he is, a win away from the Super Bowl, a week away from putting the finishing touch on a comeback not many thought would happen.

If the Chiefs beat the Buffalo Bills tomorrow in the AFC championship game and advance to Super Bowl XXVIII, his will be one of the most celebrated stories in Atlanta next week.

Just don't expect Allen to dredge up those memories of his bitter exile with the Los Angeles Raiders.

"I really don't want to talk about the Raiders situation," Allen said during a national conference call this week. "It really doesn't do anyone any good. I'm happy and I got an opportunity to play. It's worked out well in Kansas City."

Allen, one of the most graceful athletes in the NFL, was once the most identifiable Raider.

He was a first-round draft pick -- and Rookie of the Year -- in 1982. He led the team to a 38-9 rout of the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl XVIII a year later. He was the NFL's MVP in 1985, when he led the league in rushing. He set an NFL record by rushing for 100 yards in 11 straight games. And he went to five Pro Bowls as a Raider.

Still, he spent his last two seasons in Los Angeles as a bit player and third-down back. His last four there were marred by acrimony with Davis, the club's general managing partner, after a 1989 contract dispute.

Free agency allowed Allen to escape the wrath of Davis. In the off-season, the 33-year-old running back joined Joe Montana, 37, in the Chiefs' golden oldie movement.

As recently as last month, Allen talked about his banishment in Los Angeles and his stormy relationship with Davis.

"For lack of a better word, it was purgatory for me," he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "It was difficult, obviously. I insulated myself, especially the last year, which was very difficult. It was hard to go to work at times."

Despite his public humiliation, he said he has not used Davis as motivation.

"To think about that would be to give him credence, and he doesn't exist to me," Allen said. "Well, he does [exist], but you understand what I'm saying? I don't give him that much power."

Whatever his motivation, it's unlikely the Chiefs (13-5) would have gotten this far without him.

Allen started the season as a short-yardage runner -- coach Marty Schottenheimer has called him the best short-yardage and goal-line runner he's seen -- behind Harvey Williams.

By October he had supplanted Williams as the starter, a position he's held the past nine games.

XTC Over the hill? Hardly. He led the team in rushing with 764 yards, and the AFC in touchdowns with 15. He gained another 238 yards on 34 catches out of the backfield. He was voted to his sixth Pro Bowl as a starting running back.

Allen's success was no surprise to Bills linebacker Cornelius Bennett. "He's been a great player throughout his career," Bennett said. "He's 33 years old in age, but football-wise, you should take a couple years off that because he's really been idle the last couple of years with the Raiders.

"He's a tremendous talent. He's like Jim Brown, getting 5, 6 yards a pop. He's still one of the best cutback runners in the league."

Allen moved into 10th place on the NFL's all-time rushing list this season with 9,300 yards. He tied former Colts great Lenny Moore for fifth place with 113 career touchdowns.

When he arrived in Kansas City, Allen said, he anticipated playing a prominent role.

"At the risk of sounding prophetic, I sincerely expected to play a great deal and contribute to the success of the offense," he said.

Now he is motivated by the chance to return to the Super Bowl 10 years after he bedazzled the Redskins. He rushed for 191 yards and two touchdowns in that game, but the enduring image of Allen has been his electrifying, 74-yard run through the heart of the Redskins defense. He started left, reversed direction, then bolted up the middle of the field, leaving defenders in his wake.

It was no coincidence that in the biggest game of his NFL career, Allen played the best game of his career. He knows how to elevate his game at playoff time.

"I don't know if it's instinctive, if it's an innate thing for some players," he said. "Experience plays a big part of it, being in that situation many times and realizing you have to step up in order to get to the next level."

The next level is the Super Bowl. The moment, Allen says, is still special.

"I appreciated moments like this when I was younger in my career," he said. "I've always been very appreciative. Obviously, when you get older and are in the latter stages of your career, these things are extremely important."

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