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When the war was over, the two players slapped hands. Head down, Thomas went to his locker room. Bosellinot Brunell or 100-yard-rusher James Stewartdid an on-field interview with CBS and got the kind of attention the best left tackle in the game deserves. "Derrick's a great player, one of the best in history," Boselli said, with grass still stuck to his arms as he lounged at his locker afterward. "I'm proud of how we played today."
Thomas, whose seven sacks during a 1990 game against the Seahawks remains an NFL record, appears to be in the prime of his career and a threat to eclipse the league's single-season and career marks. But whose records is he really chasing? The NFL didn't begin keeping team sack yardage until 1963, and it wasn't until '82 that the league started tracking individual takedowns. With 113 1/2 career sacks, Thomas ranks ninth alltime.
Not so fast, says John Turney, a 34-year-old football fanatic from Alamogordo, N.Mex. Because he grew up idolizing defensive linemen, Turney in 1992 began an exhaustive project, studying play-by-play summaries from every NFL and AFL game from 1958 through '81 to identify the league's true sack leaders. The Packers' Reggie White, with 179 1/2 career sacks, remains the official NFL sack king, but Thomas ranks only 20th on Turney's list.
Regarding the single-season record, the league recognizes the 22 takedowns by Jets defensive end Mark Gastineau in 1984, but by Turney's count, former All-Pro defensive end Deacon Jones also racked up 22 in 1964 and '68 (see chart).
Likewise, the 59-year-old Jones believes he belongs in the record book. "I'm the most devastating pass rusher the league's ever seen, but who would know that today?" says Jones, whom Turney credits with 173 1/2 sacks during a 14-year career with the Rams, Chargers and Redskins. "It hurts. It hurts me deeply that my numbers, and the guys I played with, aren't recognized."
Jones, who is recuperating from recent surgery for prostate cancer, may be fighting a lost cause on the sack front. The Elias Sports Bureau, the league's official statistician, says the amount of time required to research individual sacks makes such a task unrealistic.
Regardless, Jones believes it will only be a matter of time before Thomas eclipses the single-season and career sack records. "If teams keep single-blocking him," Jones says of Thomas, "he could get 40 some year."
As long as he doesn't have to face Boselli every week.
Issue date: September 21, 1998
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