Sunday morning, Bo Jackson looked like a typical Kansas City Royals baseball player enjoying his off-season.
Having been away from home for a couple of weeks, he was out there in the bright sun, mowing his lawn and exchanging pleasantries with the neighbors.
By Sunday noon, however, the off-season had turned into midseason, and Bo Jackson had turned into a football player, busy mowing down would-be tacklers.
So continues the saga of a man for two seasons, a saga unlike any ever seen at the professional level. The Royals’ full-time outfielder has become the Raider tailback without missing a step.
Raider Coach Mike Shanahan kept saying all week that Jackson would not start against the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday, that a man could not suddenly drop in, 6 games into the football season, pick up a new offense and new terminology, and play after just 5 days of indoctrination.
Shanahan was right.
Jackson didn’t get into the game until the Raiders’ second play from scrimmage.
By the time the final gun had sounded on the Raiders’ 27-17 victory, Jackson had game-high figures in both rushing attempts, 21, and yards, 70, including a 1-yard burst for a touchdown.
Part of Jackson’s workload was dictated by the broken bone in Marcus Allen’s left wrist, a 2-week-old injury that eventually sidelined him in the second half, although he was wearing a cast and a protective glove.
“Marcus just didn’t feel like he could do the job without hurting the team,” Shanahan said. “He felt he would be a detriment to the team. He couldn’t run or block the way he wanted to.”
But beyond that was Jackson’s ability to assimilate the Raider playbook quickly enough to step in and inject life into a team that had lost 4 of its first 6 games.
That talent is hard to ignore, and Shanahan showed admirable restraint in waiting one play.
“I was surprised at what kind of shape he was in and that he adjusted real quick to the offense,” Shanahan said. “He looked like he got stronger as the game went on. I really didn’t know what to expect.”
Jackson had declared that he was ready after his first day of practice with the Raiders earlier in the week, but he wasn’t about to downplay the effort required.
“Nothing is easy,” he said. “I’m just one of those fortunate guys with talent.”
Who could argue? Certainly not his teammates. “He’s so fast it’s unbelievable,” Raider offensive tackle Don Mosebar said. “Now they can’t key on Marcus all the time. We have another great threat.”
Added another member of the offensive line, Rory Graves: “He really does give us that extra dimension. When I came off the ball on my block, he was just about there by the time I got to my guy.”
Jackson was also utilized as a blocker and as a pass catcher Sunday. He caught 2 passes for 10 yards and had a shot at a touchdown on another throw, but couldn’t hold on.
This was the second time that Jackson has appeared in Kansas City wearing silver and black. The last time, a year ago, the results were far different.
The Kansas City fans, still not comfortable with one of their Royals playing for the hated Raiders, gave Jackson somewhat less than Royal treatment. They threw baseballs at him from the stands and booed. Down on the field, it wasn’t much better, as Jackson injured an ankle and wound up with 1 yard in 3 carries.
But, Jackson said he didn’t arrive this Sunday with any trepidation. “The fans were not on my mind,” he said. “Being back here in Kansas City was not on my mind. The Chiefs’ defense was on my mind.
“It turned out a lot different than last year. I didn’t know what to expect, but the crowd was wonderful. I only saw one baseball. I just think the crowd had to get it off their chests (a year ago).”
Just in case, Jackson brought his own fans with him. He supplied several of the Royals, including pitcher Bret Saberhagen and infielder Kevin Seitzer, with tickets.
Summing up his afternoon, he said: “I felt good. I’m a little stiff, but I expect to be. I think I’ll be a whole lot sorer tomorrow.”
When he was done, however, and all the cameras and lights had been turned off, he was heard to mutter to himself on the way out, “I feel like I’m 80 years old.”
Maybe he is trying to do too much. Maybe he ought to get somebody else to mow that lawn.