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Bo Jackson Arrives, Sees a More Positive Attitude

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Bo Jackson held his third annual I’m-a-Raider-too press conference Thursday. He arrived wearing a floral shirt buttoned to that Sequoia neck of his and a diamond in his left earlobe.

Are they wearing earrings around El Segundo these days?

A man who drives in 105 runs for the Kansas City Royals and averages 5.2 yards a carry in the National Football League could ask to play in a tutu and the Raiders would have one made up in silver and black.

In the third year of double pastimes, Bo is more famous than ever--Nike ranks him second only to Michael Jordan as a salesman--and he’s as independent as ever. Neither the Royals nor the Raiders have his home phone number; if they want to reach him, they call his agent, Richard Woods, in Mobile, Ala.

What he’s doing is so mind-boggling that three years later, no one seems to believe it. Many of the questions were of the “Don’t-you-have-to-choose?” variety, to which Jackson responded that he certainly does not.

Thursday, he made the strongest statement yet of how tense the Raiders were a year ago, took a shot at Deion Sanders and said for the 10,000th time that he won’t be choosing soon.

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Here’s the one, the only:

Question: How does it feel to be back with Art Shell taking over?

Answer: Upon getting here yesterday morning, I noticed there was a big difference in the attitude around here. There were a lot more smiling faces. People are happier. The players want to get out to practice to get better. The attitude here is like a contrast of night and day (compared) to last year. That’s great. Because, you know, the winning attitude is in the air. I think some big things are going to happen pretty soon. Just by sitting in the meetings, being in the locker room, just sitting and watching the players, it’s just a different air that’s circulating, and the only thing that can come out of it is something good.

Q: Were you concerned about the attitude last season?

A: No. Because I have no control over it. As they say, I just work here.

Q: Was last year’s attitude a problem in allowing players to relax and play?

A: Yes. But things have changed now.

Q: Is there any carryover from your baseball injuries, a sore knee and a pulled thigh muscle?

A: I don’t think so.

Q: Don’t you wish you had longer than 10 days to rest after the baseball season?

A: It’s getting to the point now where I’m having a hard time handling the idle time I have. (Laughter.)

Q: What did you do?

A: My wife and I went back to Auburn. She had to see some professors about her doctoral studies (Jackson’s wife, Linda, is working on a degree in clinical psychology.) And I’m trying to finish up my degree, so I met with some of my professors.

Q: Did you work out?

A: Caught three catfish.

Q: Has all your new publicity changed you?

A: I don’t think so. The things that happened this summer have happened. That’s water over the dam. It can’t help me here. And the things that happened last year when I was with the Raiders, that’s water over the dam, also. This is ’89, and right now I’m living for the present.

Q: Did the great response to your Nike cross-trainer ad bother you?

A: I don’t let it bother me. That was just something I did. I enjoyed it very, very much. But one thing, I don’t let it go to my head, if that’s what you mean.

Q: When will you choose between sports?

A: I’m the type of person, I cross the bridges once I get to ‘em. I don’t try to plan my life three, four months in advance, because you don’t know if tomorrow’s promised to you.

Q: Do you feel pressure to decide?

A: I don’t feel any pressure. I am my own person. What I’m doing, I’m happy with it. I don’t have to make a decision whether I’m going to play this sport or the other. I’m doing what I want to.

Q: And if top Raider or Royal management tells you to decide?

A: (Grinning.) I’ll say that’s not in my contract. (The Royals used to make noises about convincing Jackson to choose but stopped long ago when they realized how valuable he is, doing it his way. The Raiders have never dared even to hint that he give up baseball.)

Q: Did you hear that Marcus Allen said he doesn’t want to move to fullback this season?

A: I don’t dig for trash.

Q: Sometimes it comes looking for you.

A: You set a match to it and burn it, and do away with it.

Q: Did the fact that you were used a lot in a hurry last season (21 carries four days after arrival) lead to your hamstring pull?

A: I know why I pulled the hamstring last year. For about three, four days straight, I only drank about three glasses of water total. My body was trying to function off Coke and iced tea, and the muscles just didn’t respond to that.

Q: Any new hobbies lately?

A: Trying to have as short press conferences as I can. (Laughter.)

Q: Wouldn’t you be a better baseball or football player if you chose one?

A: I think there have been enough great athletes. I just want to be an athlete. I don’t want to leave this game with people looking at me in one aspect. I want to be known as the athlete who was a great person. Because when all of this is over, who is going to remember Bo Jackson or what he did in such-and-such a game?

Q: Do you resent Deion Sanders for his baseball-football double?

A: No. If he feels he can do it, let him. But I don’t think it’s good to sit up and brag about it all the time. The only people I know getting in high places by running their mouth are politicians. (Laughter.)

Q: Wouldn’t you like to be remembered as perhaps the greatest ever to play one game or another?

A: The thing that gets my goat, you go out and you have one good game and people--or should I say, y’all--say, ‘This guy is going to be the greatest athlete, this guy is going to do this, he’ll do that.’ And the next week, you go out and you have a terrible game, and your stories are all turned around. Just let me do what I’m doing, and then when all of this is up, then you can say how my career was. Don’t try to sum up my career in one or two seasons. Let me finish it first.

Q: How does it feel, opening against the Chiefs?

A: I like it. I see those guys all the time when I’m back in Kansas City. That’s my home town and it’s like I’m playing against my neighborhood, and it’s fun.

Q: Who do you like in the World Series?

A: If Bo’s not in it, then Bo doesn’t care about it.


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