Bo Jackson, the once-and-perhaps-future Kansas City Royal, officially became a Raider Saturday, passing his physical examination, earning his first $500,000 reporting bonus--he'll get another if he re-ups in a year--and practicing with his new teammates.
Thus started the phase of his career that he once--well, actually it was several times--termed a "hobby." What did that make the feared silver and black, Toys R Us?
Did anyone care? A superstar is a superstar. As far as Raider players are concerned, he could have said it was nursery school, as long as he enrolled.
Of course, two can kid.
"I told him, if he could hit the slider and the curveball, he wouldn't be here," Matt Millen said.
He's here, all right, large as life at 6-1, 230, which makes him the biggest Raider halfback, or fullback, and as big as two of their three tight ends. Of course, he can outrun every Raider, too, not to mention every Bear, Giant, et al. New England Patriot personnel director Dick Steinberg said Jackson is the fastest player he has ever timed.
When will Jackson actually play?
Nobody knows, but it'll probably either be here against the Seattle Seahawks next Sunday or in New England against the Patriots Nov. 1.
"As soon as he's ready to play," Coach Tom Flores said. "Obviously, we want to take advantage of the talent we feel he has."
How will he be used?
Upon signing back in July, Jackson said he'd been told by Managing General Partner Al Davis that he'd back up Marcus Allen.
How did his first drill go?
"Ran a few plays," Jackson told a hastily called press conference. "Screwed up a few plays. Got the first-day jitters out of my system."
About that "hobby" thing?
"I think when I made that statement, the public and the press blew that all out of proportion," Jackson said. "The way I see it, they used that one word to make me look like a villain.
"What I simply meant by that was, when I'm playing baseball, I'm totally committed to baseball. And now I'm here, I'm 110% committed to the Raiders. I look at this as a serious job, just like you all look at your jobs as serious jobs."
What would it take to turn him into a full-time Raider?
"Sir, if I could see that far down the road, I would tell you," Jackson said. "But at this point in time, I'm just here to play football with the Raiders."
At this point in time, is he still definitely going to spring training with the Royals?
"Yes, those are my plans."
This, of course, was not quite the same as, "Yes period."
As a Royal rookie, Jackson had a whirlwind start, considering his half-season's pro experience. When he signed with the Raiders at the All-Star break, he was hitting .257 with 18 homers and 45 runs batted in, the last two marks club highs.
After that, he hit .181 with 4 homers and 8 RBIs while striking out 43 times in 105 at-bats. Overall, he struck out 158 times, 31 short of Bobby Bonds' major league record. Coincidentally or not, the hometown Kansas City fans, hardly Raider admirers, rained little plastic footballs over Jackson's position, and might have launched the full-size pigskins if the team wasn't alertly confiscating them at the gate.
In mid-August, he was benched, never to return to the lineup until the Royals were mathematically eliminated.
Was all that hard on him?
"Not really," Jackson said. "I'm a tough person mentally. As far as not playing as much as I did, I was there 100% in spirit. I was cheering for my teammates and all that. Whenever I did get in the game, I got in there and gave it my best. As far as sitting there day by day, it didn't bother me."
What does he expect from himself here?
"I expect to go out and do whatever I can to help the Raiders. I'm not saying I've come here to try and take someone's job, or to carry the team on my shoulders. Just to be one of the players, a face in the crowd."
And his role in relation to Allen?
"I don't see myself as competing with Marcus," Jackson said. "I see myself combining my talents with Marcus' talents to help the Raiders.
Allen has been similarly gracious. "I'm glad he's here," he said Saturday. "The Raiders are always trying to get great players here."
And what does Jackson think it'll be like Dec. 14, when the Raiders play at Kansas City?
"I don't know," he said. "Wild. I expect to get some baseballs thrown at me."