Fredrickson Hits Ground Learning : Pro football: Raider rookie linebacker endures whirlwind start as he adjusts to playing middle.
Life has been a blur for Rob Fredrickson.
On the field and off.
When the summer began, he was home in Michigan, waiting to sign his first pro contract with the Raiders, who had made him a first-round draft choice.
When negotiations stalled, Fredrickson, unable to sit still, came out to California and moved in with his agent, Bruce Allen, in Redondo Beach.
After nine days, a contract agreement was reached and Fredrickson moved to training camp at Oxnard.
But after only five days, he was on his way to Barcelona for an exhibition game.
Then back to Oxnard.
On to Dallas for another exhibition.
Back again to Oxnard.
And now, Fredrickson is in Pittsburgh, where the unbeaten Raiders (2-0) will play the Steelers (0-1) tonight at Three Rivers Stadium.
Such a whirlwind itinerary might exhaust the most secure veteran. For a young rookie trying to not only learn the pro game, but also a new position--he has been moved from outside linebacker into the middle--this living out of a suitcase only adds to the uncertainty.
It’s not as if Fredrickson can relax once he gets on the field. That’s where things really blur.
“There’s a lot happening in there,” said Raider Coach Art Shell of the middle linebacker position. “There’s a lot of traffic in there. You have a tackle coming at you. You have a guard coming at you. You’ve got the center coming at you. You’ve got the tight end coming at you. And sometimes, they’ll bring the wide receiver.”
Fredrickson, competing with second-year man Greg Biekert for the starting position, desperately wants to get a passing grade in his summer cram course.
“I feel the pressure,” Fredrickson admitted. “I want to live up to expectations.”
But he also feels the difference now that he is no longer an outside linebacker.
“I felt like I had maybe a half-second to a second more to analyze the play (on the outside),” he said. “In the middle, you’ve got to go now or you’re going to be out of position to make the play.
“Frankly, it’s been happening to me a lot the first couple of games. I’ve got to stop thinking and start reacting. I’m just now starting to get the grasp of it.
“In the first game, I was nervous and all over the place, out of control, overrunning plays. I’ve got to settle down.”
This, of course, is the time to learn for players like Fredrickson.
Crucial for the Raiders is the development of a running game to supplement their explosive passing attack.
They have shown they can throw deep with the best of them. They began with a 75-yard touchdown pass on their first play of their first game and have filled the sky with footballs ever since.
But all this activity in the air has left them with little opportunity to smooth out their operations on the ground.
The Raiders have gained only 254 yards rushing in their two games. The most yardage by any individual back is 32 by Harvey Williams in the opener against the Denver Broncos.
Look for the Raider quarterbacks to spend more time handing off tonight.
And when the Raiders are on defense, look for Fredrickson. He’ll be the guy in the middle, trying to clear up the blur in his vision.
Defensive lineman Chester McGlockton and wide receiver Alexander Wright are questionable for tonight’s game. McGlockton is still nursing the bruised leg he suffered last week against the Dallas Cowboys. Wright has missed both exhibition games because of an injured calf muscle. Coach Art Shell doesn’t like the idea of either testing their sore legs on the artificial turf at Three Rivers Stadium.
This is the third exhibition between these two clubs, but the first in nearly two decades. The Steelers won, 20-6, in Pittsburgh in 1970, and the Raiders evened the series with a 24-21 victory at Berkeley in 1975. . . . The Steelers lost their exhibition opener last week to the Miami Dolphins, 24-14.
The Steeler to watch is wide receiver Charles Johnson, the team’s first-round draft choice. He caught four passes last week for 77 yards and a touchdown. . . . Running back Barry Foster, who missed the final seven games of last season because of an ankle injury, will make his first appearance of the exhibition season tonight.