Advertisement

Long Road Still Ahead for Raider : Pro football: Running back Robinson is ineligible for first six weeks of season after being put on injured reserve list.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Greg Robinson knew.

He didn’t need to look at the concerned expressions on the trainers’ faces as they hunched over him on the frozen surface of Rich Stadium that cold December day. He didn’t need to look into the eyes of the examining physician. Nor did he need to monitor the subsequent tests.

Robinson’s ears had already told him what his eyes would later confirm.

As soon as his brief journey around the left side of the offensive line was cut short by a loud popping sound in his left knee, Robinson knew he was seriously injured.

Advertisement

As he lay there, Robinson saw his whole season, if not his career, flash before his eyes.

The tailback had begun as an eighth-round draft choice, not given much chance to make an impact.

But by the time he took a handoff from quarterback Jeff Hostetler on the first play of the third quarter that day in December, Robinson had run to the top of the Raider rushing chart. The three yards he picked up on the play that ended his season gave him a team-leading 591 and a 3.8-yard average.

At first, Robinson underwent arthroscopic surgery on the knee, which first had been injured at Northeast Louisiana.

Advertisement

This time, he had a torn ligament, but it was hoped that he might be able to get back on the field in time for the playoffs.

Instead, Robinson watched helplessly from the sideline as the Raiders were eliminated by the same Buffalo Bills who had ended his own season prematurely.

By early February, he was undergoing major reconstructive surgery.

The road back suddenly seemed a lot longer.

Advertisement

*

Every day of camp this year, the Raiders rose early at their Oxnard training site, pulled on their uniforms, took a deep breath and waded into a long day of double workouts, agonizing minutes on the weight machines, endless meetings and long, dreary film sessions.

For Robinson, though, the days in Oxnard consisted of a monotonous routine of jogging, lifting weights, watching, more watching, lifting weights and jogging.

Mostly, he was watching.

Advertisement

While his teammates could tell themselves that training camp would soon end and the rewards of the regular season would be upon them, there was no such solace for Robinson.

Instead, he had to watch while the Raiders brought in veteran Harvey Williams and drafted rookie Calvin Jones to compete for his job.

“It’s real tough,” he said. “These are hard times. I can learn a lot from looking at the backs and the linemen work. But for me, it’s really just about looking right now. I’m tired of coming out and seeing people do my job and knowing that if I was OK, I’d be doing it.

“It’s frustrating. It’s horrible. It’s miserable.”

Advertisement

And that was on his better days.

On others, Robinson would awaken in his Oxnard room, stare at the ceiling and agonize at the thought of getting up and resuming his seemingly interminable routine.

“I just wanted to stay in my room,” he said.

But he didn’t. Instead, he sought out his source of inspiration, fellow running back Ty Montgomery, who overcame a similar injury in college and became the Raiders’ starting tailback in place of Robinson.

Advertisement

“When I feel down, I talk to him,” Robinson said.

And what does Montgomery tell him?

“I try to give him positive advice,” Montgomery said. “Sure he wishes he was out there. But why fool yourself? He’ll know when it’s time. Nobody else can tell him. When he gets down, I tell him it happened for a reason. I tell him it’s so that he can get a grasp on life.”

Robinson does take comfort from being only 25.

Advertisement

“If you play this game long enough, (an injury) is going to happen sooner or later,” he said. “It’s better that it happens when you’re younger because then you’ll be able to recover better.”

Robinson is also heartened by the belief that, when he does return, he will be better than before.

“As the year went on, I studied more film,” he said. “I took it upon myself to make things happen. I got more confident. And I got more patient. In the beginning I wasn’t waiting for the holes to open.”

Whether lying in his bed in Oxnard or standing on the field, Robinson can never seem to get one picture out of his mind, the picture of himself churning around the left side that day in Buffalo.

Advertisement

“I remember everything about that play,” he said. “Where I ran, who hit me, everything.”

The Raiders have been saying all along that Robinson wouldn’t be available until midseason at the earliest.

Monday, they made that official by putting him on the injured reserve/physically unable to perform list, making him ineligible for the first six weeks of the season.

The Raiders are hopeful it won’t be too much longer than that.

Advertisement

“The trainers say he is ahead of schedule,” Coach Art Shell said.

Said Robinson: “I don’t have any time frame. I don’t even know if I’m going to play this year. I can be confident, but my body is the key. I can’t control that. If I’m able to perform this year, that would be a lot.”

For now, Robinson is merely happy that the Oxnard phase of training camp is over and he’s able to work out at the team’s El Segundo headquarters and then go home at night and get away from the game.

“I don’t know how I survived as long as I did,” he said.

Advertisement

* RAM CUTS: Sean LaChapelle, a second-year wide receiver from UCLA, was among those cut by Rams. C5.


Advertisement