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Raiders Glad McCallum Part of the Crew Again : Pro football: Running back is out of the Navy, away from Chargers and back on the football field.

September 06, 1990|CHRIS BAKER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Reporters gathered around Raider running back Napoleon McCallum after Saturday's exhibition game against the San Diego Chargers. "I must have done something," he said. "How many yards did I have? How many carries?"

McCallum rushed for 88 yards in 15 carries, including a 20-yard burst, as the Raiders defeated the Chargers, 34-7. He gained 39 yards in seven carries during an 11-play, 87-yard touchdown drive.

"I don't take off for 30-yard carries, but I guess the fives and sixes add up," McCallum said. "I always wonder what the total is at the end. It's been four years since I ran that much."

Out of football since the end of the 1986 season while serving in the Navy, McCallum, 26, is still getting readjusted to football. "I'm seeing things a little better than I have been," McCallum said. "And my instincts are coming back. With some time, I'll get there."

After being switched from tailback to fullback during training camp, McCallum moved back to tailback after Marcus Allen pulled a hamstring. McCallum responded by having his best game of the exhibition season as the Raiders compiled a season-high 267 yards on the ground.

"(Moving from tailback to fullback) is not an easy thing to do," Raider Coach Art Shell said. "He's a natural halfback, and we asked him to play fullback during training camp and he did an outstanding job. (Then) we put him back at tailback, and it's like he never left there."

Asked which position he prefers, McCallum said: "I probably feel more comfortable at halfback. I've still got a lot to learn at fullback. Tailback, you just sit back and you can watch things happen. I get a better picture of what's happening. But hopefully, they'll decide I can do both."

For the past four seasons, while McCallum was in the Navy, it appeared doubtful that he'd ever return to the NFL.

The Raiders' fourth-round draft choice in 1986 from the Naval Academy, McCallum rushed for 536 yards and one touchdown as a rookie, while serving on the USS Peleliu in Long Beach. He commuted to practice in El Segundo after completing his shipboard duties.

But he was reassigned to the USS California, a guided missile cruiser--far from the Raiders--in 1987, after Navy officials intervened.

Does McCallum think he was reassigned because of the attention he received while playing for the Raiders?

"Yes," he said. "Otherwise, I wouldn't have been that big of a concern to the higher-ups. The Secretary of the Navy was plotting out where I was supposed to go.

"I never tried to get out of (serving the required time), but I tried to do reserve time while I was playing and then serve the years after playing football. But I had to do it by the book. I didn't get any leeway. They didn't make any exceptions."

The Navy made an exception for basketball star David Robinson so he could join the San Antonio Spurs after serving just two years. Is McCallum bitter that the Navy didn't treat him the same as Robinson?

"Dave's situation was totally different from mine," McCallum said. "He was probably going to leave the Academy after his junior year and he was told that if he stayed, he'd probably have no obligation. I didn't tell them I was going to leave. I'm happy for Dave and what he got, and I think it's worked out real well for Dave and the Navy."

Asked if it was difficult to stay in shape while working as a supply officer on a ship, McCallum said: "You can't stay in football shape. The Navy's got some facilities, but being on board a ship is probably the hardest place to stay in shape because the weight room isn't of primary importance."

While McCallum was on a cruise in 1988, he received a telegram from his wife informing him that the Raiders had sent him to the Chargers as part of the Jim Lachey-John Clay deal. The Raiders later sent Lachey to the Washington Redskins in the trade for quarterback Jay Schroeder.

The deal was engineered by Steve Ortmayer, who left the Raiders to become Charger general manager. But it was heavily criticized by the San Diego media because Lachey went on to become an All-Pro tackle in Washington, Clay retired because of a bad back, and McCallum never played for the Chargers.

"(The criticism) wasn't as much of McCallum as it was for the other part of the trade," Ortmayer said. "Clay ended up not playing because he got hurt, and we had given up a good player to get him."

After being transferred to a Navy recruiting billet in San Diego last year, McCallum tried to return to the NFL. However, the Chargers placed him on their military reserve list after he pulled a hamstring in training camp.

The Chargers promised to invite him to camp this season, but Ortmayer was fired, and new San Diego General Manager Bobby Beathard told McCallum he would have to run 4.6 seconds in the 40-yard dash to be invited back.

Although the 6-2, 220-pound McCallum has always relied more on power than speed, he ran a wind-aided 4.6 and was timed in 4.7 against the wind.

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