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Napoleon Complex
Peter King
October 06, 1997
Kaufman runs up some impressive stats, Pace hits stride in first start, Modell angry after all these months
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October 06, 1997

Napoleon Complex

Kaufman runs up some impressive stats, Pace hits stride in first start, Modell angry after all these months

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Player

Clutch kicks

Pct

Inside 40 yards

40-plus yards

1. STEVE CHRISTIE, Bills

10-11

.909

9-9

1-2

2. GARY ANDERSON, 49ers

13-15

.867

8-8

5-7

3. CHRIS JACKE, Steelers

10-13

.769

7-7

3-6

4. DOUG PELFREY, Bengals

9-12

.750

4-4

5-8

5. PETE STOYANOVICH, Chiefs

14-19

.736

11-11

3-8

6. JEFF JAEGER, Bears

7-10

.700

4-4

3-6

7. JOHN CARNEY, Chargers

9-13

.692

7-7

2-6

8. MORTEN ANDERSEN, Falcons
(tie) NORM JOHNSON, Steelers

16-24
12-18

.667
.667

8-9
6-7

8-15
6-11

10. EDDIE MURRAY, Vikings

11-18

.611

5-8

6-10

Name one of today's great NFL backs—Terrell Davis, Barry Sanders, Emmitt Smith, Ricky Watters—and look at his rushing total over his last 359 carries. None has exceeded 1,700 yards. In fact, none has approached the yards gained in that number of carries by the league's most unheralded featured back, the Raiders' Napoleon Kaufman.

In 2½ seasons as a pro, Kaufman, a part-time player until two weeks ago, has carried 359 times for 1,908 yards. He was always told that, at 5'9" and 185 pounds, he was too small to be an every-down back. But after carrying 53 times in his last two games (27 for 126 yards on Sept. 21 against the Jets, 26 m. for a career-high 162 yards in Sunday's 35-17 rout of the Rams), Kaufman has dispelled the notion that he can't take the punishment. "I say as long as he wants, let's give him the rock," Raiders tackle Lincoln Kennedy said after Sunday's game.

"Undersized?" said Rams cornerback Todd Lyght. "That's ridiculous. He's so explosive at the line, and he can outrun secondaries. I think it's an advantage to be a small back, as long as you're not getting pounded all the time, because you can get in and out of tight spots and outrun people. He can definitely do that."

Kaufman, out of Washington, was the 18th pick in the 1995 draft. Ki-Jana Carter (first to the Bengals) and Tyrone Wheatley (17th to the Giants) were the only running backs selected ahead of him. While Carter and Wheatley have been injury-prone and largely unproductive, Kaufman has averaged 5.3 yards a rush. For too long he was an unselfish player who never protested when he was replaced. But after a tough run against the Jets, he uncharacteristically waved backup Joe Aska off the field. Some in the Raiders' organization view that as a turning point. He hasn't come out of the lineup since. "People will have their questions about my durability," he says. "I've dealt with it through high school, college and now in the pros. I just want the ball. I just fight when I get it."

Kaufman maintains, nevertheless, that Sanders, Smith and Davis "are on a different level. I study those guys. I study all backs. I saw [former Raiders back] Clem Daniels today, and I told him, 'I know your stats: 5,100 yards, 30 touchdowns.' But as far as the guys today, they've done it, game in and game out."

Clearly, Kaufman hasn't. Not yet anyway. He won't say whether he thinks he should get 20-plus carries every game. "I don't judge," he says. "I just run."

Pace's First Start a Memorable One

Rams left tackle Orlando Pace, the first pick in the '97 draft, was terrific in his NFL debut as a starter. Working mostly against Raiders defensive end Lance Johnstone in the 91° heat, Pace was in for all of St. Louis's 77 snaps, allowing no sacks and two quarterback pressures. "Big dude, man," said the 250-pound Johnstone, who, despite being 84 pounds lighter than his opponent, couldn't beat Pace around the corner. "I couldn't bullrush him, but he's got such quick feet I couldn't get around him either."

"I feel good about my day," said Pace, who, because of a training camp holdout, played only 82 snaps in the Rams' first four games. "Our goal today was to give our quarterback [Tony Banks] time to throw, and I think we did that." After being sacked 15 times in his first four games, Banks wasn't dropped in 49 pass attempts against Oakland. The combination of Pace on the left side and 26-year-old Wayne Gandy at right tackle should serve St. Louis well for years to come.

Modell's Justification

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