Rookies give hope for future

  • Larry Henry / Sports Columnist
  • Saturday, December 16, 2000 9:00pm
  • Sports

SEATTLE – First Darrell Jackson praised Eric Allen.

Then he buried him.

Impudent rookie. Is that any way to treat an idol? Butter him up and then burn him.

If you’re trying to win a football game, it is.

Not that Jackson was softening up Allen for a sucker punch. Nothing like that.

Jackson really was sincere when he put his arm around Allen, the highly respected Raider cornerback, during a timeout late in Saturday’s Seattle-Oakland game and asked him for a little favor.

“I was asking him for a jersey,” the Seahawk rookie wide receiver said. “He told me he’d send me one. I’ve liked Eric Allen for a long time.”

He sure has a funny way of showing it.

On the next play, Jackson ran an inside route and saw that Allen had it covered. “He’d been playing me inside, taking away that route the whole game,” Jackson said.

So, when the inside’s cut off, there’s only one thing to do. You run outside. Which Jackson did. Quarterback Jon Kitna saw him get open in the left corner of the end zone and tossed a perfect pass.

Up went the official’s arms. Down went the Raiders.

That jersey Jackson was promised? Iffy, at best.

If Allen’s a good sport, he’ll drop it in the mail. If not, hey, Jackson came away with something better – a 27-24 win.

He also came away with the satisfaction of knowing his not-very-good Seahawk team didn’t show up just to go through the motions. It could have.

The Hawks are out of the playoff picture. They could have come in here and given a half-hearted effort in this next-to-last game of the season. But they didn’t. They came back from an 11-point deficit and won the game in the final 28 seconds after a nine play, 61-yard drive capped by Jackson’s 9-yard reception.

“I am encouraged by that,” said head coach Mike Holmgren. “They keep going, they keep at you and you need that. Mental toughness means different things to different people. To me, that’s what that means. You are never out of it, you play hard until the end, even when it looks bleak.”

To a player like Michael Sinclair, going hard until the end is a matter of survival. “Primarily, you’re fighting for a job (next year),” the veteran defensive end said.

Then there are the young guys, the rookies who are trying to make an impression with the coaches. “They’re like young pups with their eyes wide open,” he said.

The pups came with their teeth bared Saturday. They snapped at the Raiders and drew blood.

There was Jackson’s winning catch. There were the interceptions by rookie linebackers Marcus Bell and Isaiah Kacyvenski. There were the two field goals by rookie kicker Rian Lindell, one a 52-yarder as time expired in the first half to give the Hawks a 13-10 lead. There was the touchdown by rookie running back Shaun Alexander, a 4-yard run that cut Oakland’s lead to 24-19 with 5:61 remaining in the fourth quarter.

All in all, it was a blue-ribbon day for the kids. Well, they’re not really kids anymore. “As coach says, since week 10, these kids haven’t been rookies,” Kitna said.

They still make rookie (that is, dumb) mistakes. Then, a few plays later, they’ll dazzle you with something other-worldly.

The kicker Lindell, for example. He’s now perfect on three field goal tries from 50-plus yards.

“He has peaks and valleys,” Holmgren said. “He did a wonderful job on that field goal, and then I was a little disappointed with his last kickoff, kicking it out of bounds. Fortunately, he is tough enough so that he can handle my moods.”

You develop toughness when you get cut by a team (Dallas) and have to find a real job. Lindell was working for an outfit that distributes nails when the Hawks signed him in late September.

Bell was in for only two plays, but scored big with his interception, returning it 30 yards to the Oakland 11. Three plays later, the Hawks had a 7-0 lead on a 13-yard pass from Kitna to Mack Strong.

Kacyvenski is the excitable, high-energy medical student out of Harvard. He operated on the Raiders by stealing a Rich Gannon pass at the Seahawk 3 late in the third quarter.

The game was played in conditions not fit for man or Raider – wind, rain, snow. Which was just perfect for Kacyvenski. “I love it,” he said. “I love rain and I love to play in it every time I get the chance.”

Would you let this guy operate on you?

For these kids to play the way they did against a good team like the Raiders bodes well for the Seahawks. “I think they’re solid football players,” Holmgren said. “That is part of what I was talking about the future, and how we can build around a core group of players.”

They’d do well to learn to show some respect for their elders, though.

Just ask Eric Allen.

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