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Marsh Making His Move : Raiders Re-Stack Their Seven Blocks of Granite and May Finally Get the Offensive Line of Dreams

October 10, 1985|MARK HEISLER | Times Staff Writer

The Raiders are getting ready to re-stack their seven blocks of granite, which is what another offensive line was called in another time, not to mention another mood.

The Raiders' big problem is what their offensive line has been called this season.

But now, warming up for his belated season opener, is Curt Marsh. Two weeks from his return, he spends afternoons crashing into teammate Jerry Robinson, who shares his problem: Getting into "football shape." They're lucky they have each other. Otherwise, they might have to find a wall to run into.

Marsh is the very model of a modern Raider offensive lineman. A No. 1 draft choice from Washington, he has a prominent jaw, a blond Fu Manchu mustache and what looks like about 52 inches of chest. He is 6 feet 5 inches and 270 pounds, which is tackle-sized most places, but guard-sized here.

His only drawbacks have been bad luck and a little too much drive, resulting in about two full seasons lost because of two injuries.

A consensus pick to the all-rookie team in 1981, he suffered a back injury that cost him all of the '83 season, possibly from resuming weightlifting too soon after a hernia operation.

He backed up Mickey Marvin and Charley Hannah for the '84 Super Bowl. He didn't win his starting job back until midseason last year.

And then, after an off-season of dedicated work, he broke his left arm in a freak accident during a drill early in training camp.

"I'll tell you what happened," Marsh said. "We finally figured it out. We were doing a force drill, working on sweeps where the linemen work on getting out and kicking the force guy (the defensive back coming up to force the play in) out, or lock him in.

"It was the first play and it was Vann McElroy, who is very competitive also. He didn't want me to block him. I wanted to crush him. We had a collision, and when I went down my arm was underneath him. He landed on my arm and I landed rolling.

"I got up and looked down and my arm was facing the other way. I went back to the huddle, and Randy Van Divier said, 'Great block.' And he gave me one of these (a tap) on my arm. I said, 'Oh man, I think I broke my arm.'

"It was devastating. I had worked so hard all summer. I'd get up at 6 in the morning, lift from 6:30 to 9. I'd spend the day with my family. At 5 o'clock, I'd go out running and do drills--pass sets, pulling. I did that from February to the time camp opened. I was in great shape. I wanted to make a big comeback."

That started some serious shuffling. The Raiders, who had been thought to have enough talent for two lines as recently as the '84 Super Bowl, were suddenly without enough for one. They had been counting on phasing in their two young No. 1 picks, Marsh and Don Mosebar.

Mosebar, who goes 6-6 and 280, was to take over at center for Dave Dalby, the longtime incumbent who is 25 pounds lighter and, the Raiders thought, was having trouble with the new giant-sized nose tackles.

Hannah and Marsh would probably have wound up at guard. Marvin, the gentleman from Etowah, N.C., would have become a backup once more. Marvin is unfailingly gracious off the field but a kamikaze on it. He is the man who finally took Gene Upshaw's job, but at 30 he isn't huge or quick, just dedicated.

Right tackle Henry Lawrence, an All-Pro the previous year, was thought to be OK. Left tackle Shelby Jordan, another 280-pounder, was considered one of the strong points, but his stock began tumbling in camp. He came back slowly from an awful blind-side block thrown by Redskin linebacker Neal Olkewicz after an interception.

Jordan had gotten more than his feelings hurt, though. He had an abdominal pull, and his return seems to have taken longer than the Raiders like. They've stayed with Bruce Davis in Jordan's place.

The line has recently drawn mixed reviews. The rushing game has gained 243 yards in the last three halves, with Dalby back at center and Mosebar at right guard in place on the injured Marvin.

But in two weeks, when Marsh will come off injured reserve, Mosebar is expected to move back to center. The strategic decisions that are arrived at in those high-level off-season Raider meetings are not quickly abandoned. Marsh is expected to go back to left guard. This is fine with guess whom.

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