LAS VEGAS -- Marcus Allen has earned his share of accolades. He's a Heisman Trophy-winning running back who also owns Super Bowl and regular-season MVP awards and has been named an Offensive Rookie of the Year, NFL Comeback Player of the Year and a Pro Football Hall of Famer.
Allen spent 16 seasons in the NFL and has taken on the role of mentor to Las Vegas Raiders first-team All-Pro running back Josh Jacobs. So, yeah, Allen has a sense of the frustration that Jacobs has in his decision not to sign his $10.091 million franchise tag and stay away from the Raiders, as well as an annoyance at how the position has been devalued monetarily throughout the league.
"I’m just going to say it -- it's almost like collusion. They decided that the running back position is one that their productivity is only for a short period of time, instead of looking at each and every one individually. They've decided, as a group, that they're not going to pay them. So, I can understand what [running backs are] thinking and what they're feeling. So, hopefully things get resolved, because to me, [Jacobs is] like the heart and soul of the team."
Allen, in town for the Raiders' alumni weekend, spoke glowingly last year of Jacobs, though he said he had not spoken with him of late.
Jacobs ran for 1,653 yards in 2022, becoming the first Raiders player to lead the NFL in rushing since Allen did in his MVP season of 1985. Jacobs scored 12 touchdowns and caught 53 passes for 400 yards -- all after the incoming regime of coach Josh McDaniels and general manager Dave Ziegler declined to pick up the fifth-year option on the running back, a first-round pick in 2019 out of Alabama.
McDaniels, whose offenses had previously used a running back-by-committee approach, adapted to Jacobs' productivity and said the team would welcome him back with open arms if/when he chose to return.
"You go with what's the best thing to do for the team," McDaniels said earlier in training camp. "And certainly, that was [Jacobs] last year. And I wouldn't expect that to be different this year."
Still, second-year back Zamir White has been getting the first-team reps and rushed for 43 yards and a TD on 13 carries against the Niners, while Sincere McCormick rushed for 27 yards on nine attempts with a touchdown run and a touchdown reception. Veteran Ameer Abdullah rushed for 22 yards on five carries and recent signee Damien Williams carried the ball four times for 15 yards. Brandon Bolden and Brittain Brown have been banged up in training camp.
"Next to the quarterback, we're the best friends that they have on the field," Allen said of running backs. "Most people would think of wide receivers, but [backs] still block and tackle. Running the football, especially at the end of the year, matters most. Because you don't really ... get towards the Super Bowl or get in that conversation unless you can run the ball. It's just the essence of football. Everything else is sort of playing flag football.
"The running back really is the essence of football. You can throw the ball all over the field, it looks great. I know a lot of fans are excited about this stuff, but the essence of the game is running the ball."
Asked if he was surprised that Jacobs was not with the team, Allen said softly, "Nothing surprises me."