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Raiders : Rookies Are Struggling First Time Around the Block

October 29, 1987|MARK HEISLER

The Raider youth movement continues. It might have been five years since the last rookie started on offense, and his name was Marcus Allen, but now there are three.

They're the 1-2-3 picks: John Clay, the right tackle; Bruce Wilkerson, the right guard, and now with Frank Hawkins out, Steve Smith, the fullback.

This is not without cost. The Seattle Seahawks' Jeff Bryant beat the new right side for three sacks last week, and Brian Bosworth whistled past Smith for one.

"I think it does take a toll when you have three rookies in there," Smith said Wednesday. "I mean, we're out there trying, but it's our first year. It's a big jump from the college ranks to the pro ranks.

"I was supposed to block on the other side (on Bosworth's sack). We just had some confusion with the offensive line. At first, I thought he was my assignment, but he wasn't."

Smith, a 235-pound cruncher, wowed the Raiders through training camp but suffered a knee injury in the first game of the season. By the time he recovered for last Sunday's game, Hawkins was out, and Smith was in there.

"It's a lot more intense," Smith said. "The players aren't as overpowering as I thought but they're really technicians. I block a lot of linebackers and they don't try to overpower you as much as they're elusive. At Penn State, the big thing was to go up and smack a guy, and that's what you did most of the time. In the pro league, the guys are a lot more elusive, a lot harder to block."

Surprise! Brian Bosworth, who said he found the Raider performance disappointing, has made them angry.

"He hasn't been in the league long enough to know what intensity is," Raider defensive end Sean Jones said at Wednesday's press breakfast. "He's just a rookie and he should get respect from the people in the league who know what the NFL is about and stop worrying so much about haircuts. We play 'em again. That's one thing a rookie doesn't understand. You play the other team (in the same division) twice; don't run your mouth after the first game. I think Bosworth proved to everyone he's just a regular football player last week. He did nothing super."

Bosworth, who had a 3.4 grade-point average at Oklahoma, might have understood that the rematch will be played in the Kingdome, where the Raiders have lost their last five games by scores of 37-0, 33-3, 13-7, 17-14 and 38-36.

Jones was also asked, in light of the strike, if some Raiders still aren't talking to others. "You have to understand," Jones said, laughing. "There are some guys who weren't talking to each other before the strike."

Raider Notes Slip-sliding away: waived without announcement have been Raider replacements Carl Aikens, still the team leader with three touchdown receptions; David Williams, and Shawn Regent. . . . Return man Stefon Adams is doubtful for the New England game with a sore right knee. Chris Woods will probably take his place. Guard Dean Miraldi is back, but rookie Bruce Wilkerson retains the starting job.

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