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Raiders’ Smith Makes Name for Himself in Monday Night Game

Times Staff Writer

For some football players, the last name is enough. Say Dickerson or Marino and you need say no more.

For others, it’s the first name. Just about everybody knows who Bo and Marcus are.

For some, though, both names may not be enough. Even in their own towns.

Mention Steve Smith around these parts and watch the blank stares.

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Someday he’ll be the answer to a trivia question: Who was the extra running back, behind Marcus Allen and Bo Jackson?

Talk about thankless jobs. Three’s definitely a crowd in that group.

Kind of like being a warm-up act for Sinatra. Or the bad guy in a Sylvester Stallone movie. Get on, do your job and, whatever happens, always make the star look good.

Smith joined the Raiders last year as a third-round draft choice from Penn State. He was the starting fullback on the 1986 squad that won the national championship. A multi-purpose back who can be used as a runner, receiver or blocker, Smith did little of the first two last year, carrying just 5 times for 18 yards, and catching only 3 passes for an additional 46 yards.

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Mostly, he blocked, or he sat while Allen and Jackson shared the ball. In all, he was activated for just 7 games, and he made the starting lineup in only 3.

Smith shrugged when asked about it. No point in complaining when you’re sharing a backfield with two Heisman Trophy winners.

“I don’t feel forgotten,” he said. “The fullback’s job basically is to block. Whenever you get anything else, runs or passes, it’s a plus. I’m glad to get it.”

He got plenty the other night. For him, it must have seemed like a season’s worth.

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You know the story. It has been told and retold so many times, it already has become a part of Raider lore.

Monday night, Denver. Raiders, down by 24-0 at halftime, perhaps facing an early end to their season.

In the third quarter, the Broncos, cautious to a fault, were taking no chances with any of the high-profile performers the Raiders have on offense.

“The Broncos were running a lot of man-to-man coverage,” Raider quarterback Jay Schroeder said. “If you’re Denver, you look around the field and you’ve got a Willie Gault outside, a James Lofton, a Todd Christensen at tight end and then a Marcus Allen in the backfield. They can’t cover everybody with two people (each). If somebody on defense gets lost in there, somebody (on offense) is free. It just happened to be Steve Monday night.”

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Schroeder, rolling to his right, threw a short pass to Smith, swinging out of the backfield. Smith turned it into a 40-yard scoring play.

“It was basically a dump-off,” Smith said. “You wouldn’t expect to go all the way.”

Certainly, not twice . Yet, the next time the Raiders had the ball, Schroeder ran the same play, with the same result. Except this time, Schroeder rolled left from the Denver 42.

Smith again raced all the way to the end zone for his second touchdown of the game and his third of the season. And one of the great comebacks in National Football League history had been launched as the Raiders went on to win in overtime, 30-27.

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Smith, however, doesn’t figure to be running to daylight much longer. Back into the shadows is more like it.

The baseball season ends Sunday, meaning that Jackson will be leaving the Kansas City Royals to resume his hobby of playing football. Jackson figures to get into his first game for the Raiders Oct. 16--in Kansas City, of all places.

And Smith figures to be back blocking, or sitting.

Asked about it, Smith just shrugged again.

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At least, now they know his name in Denver.

Raider Notes

After 22 days of furiously learning the Raider passing game, Jay Schroeder, obtained from the Washington Redskins in a trade, began his Raider career as a runner. The first play Coach Mike Shanahan called for him was a quarterback draw. “That was a little shock,” Schroeder conceded. “But once you get the play, you just go in and run it the best you can. It actually was a real good call. We got 11 yards out of it.”

After indicating Monday that he would put Zeph Lee into the starting lineup to replace injured strong safety Stacey Toran, Shanahan said Tuesday that the job will go to Russell Carter. . . . There is still no word on how long Toran’s sprained ankle will keep him out, but he’ll definitely miss Sunday’s home game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

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Shanahan said the addition of a new defensive back to the roster to beef up the injury-riddled secondary is still a possibility. A final decision is expected today. . . . Steve Hartman, who is in charge of publications and media relations, is leaving the Raiders after four years to take a job with a Los Angeles marketing firm.


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