KINNEBREW WATCHED BILLS, FELT HE COULD 'MOVE THE PILE' - The Buffalo News

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KINNEBREW WATCHED BILLS, FELT HE COULD 'MOVE THE PILE'

If you're looking for a big fullback, they don't come any bigger than Larry Kinnebrew.

At 260 pounds, the former leading ground-gainer of the Cincinnati Bengals, who signed as a free agent with the Bills in January, is powerful enough to "move the pile."

THE KINNEBREW FILE
NAME: Larry Kinnebrew. POSITION: Running back.

After being released by the Bengals in early September, Kinnebrew shopped his talents around the NFL. Why did he settle on Buffalo?

"Over the last year, I kind of watched them and I noticed they had lots of trouble inside the 20 and they could use a big, power fullback," said Kinnebrew, who is expected at Rich Stadium this week when the Bills hold a voluntary off-season conditioning camp.

"Also, the front office treated me real fair."

One reason Kinnebrew was not a Bengal in 1988 after five seasons with the team was he didn't think the Cincinnati front office treated him fairly in contract negotiations.

Kinnebrew's last contract with the Bengals was up after the 1987 season, when he led the team with 570 yards rushing and eight touchdowns.

His holdout lasted right through training camp until the Bengals relinquished their ties to him just as the 1988 regular season was going to start.

"I set a figure and I stuck to it," is the way Kinnebrew explains it. Those close to the scene in Cincinnati say he turned down $250,000 a year.

By holding out and collecting his release, Kinnebrew missed out on the Bengals' Super Bowl season. He says he has no regrets.

"No, I'm not sorry at all about it, and I'm with a team that has got a good chance for it (the Super Bowl) next year," Kinnebrew said.

As it turned out, the Bengals didn't miss Kinnebrew because rookie Ickey Woods stepped in and became one of the NFL's top newcomers.

"I was quite sure they (the Bengals) were waiting to see if Ickey was coming through, if he was the fullback they wanted, before they released me," said Kinnebrew.

Woods was popular in Cincinnati. So was Kinnebrew.

"I couldn't go to games in Cincinnati, I had to watch them on television. I went to the Detroit game in preseason and never got to my seat. All I did was sign autographs."

Instead of football, Kinnebrew spent last fall working as a construction laborer with a company rebuilding highway bridges. Instead of a football, his hands often were wrapped around the handle of a jackhammer or a pickax.

"When I wasn't working, I was working out, trying to stay in shape, or just sitting around the house,"
Kinnebrew said.

Critics say Kinnebrew often did too much sitting around the house when he was a Bengal. His weight would creep over the 260-pound mark, and when that happened his effectiveness would decline.

"I'm in pretty good shape now, but I'm not in playing shape," said Kinnebrew, who claims he now weighs 260. "My last season, I played at between 260 and 265. They (the Bills) haven't given me a weight I'm supposed to be at, but when I come up there I'll meet with (conditioning coach) Rusty Jones."

Kinnebrew didn't distinguish himself as a blocker or receiver with the Bengals, but he led the team in rushing twice during his five seasons in Cincinnati and scored 36 career touchdowns.

It remains to be seen how he will fit in with the Bills, who, oddly enough, let their fullbacks carry the ball hardly at all during their 12-4 season in 1988.

Jamie Mueller, who started 15 of the 16 regular-season games, ran only 81 times for 296 yards. Compare that to Mueller's rookie season when he carried 82 times for 354 yards in only 12 games, six of which were starts.

Carl Byrum, the other fullback, carried only 28 times for 91 yards in 1988. Neither fullback scored a touchdown.

By comparison, halfbacks Thurman Thomas, Robb Riddick and Ronnie Harmon carried 375 combined. Some of the carries, of course, came when both Riddick and Harmon were in the game at the same time in the Buffalo shotgun formation. Nevertheless, Bills fullbacks carried the ball only once in about every five running plays.

Mueller had only seven pass receptions all season and Byrum only one.

The Bills listed Mueller among the 37 players protected from NFL free agency, but Byrum was not protected and could be signed by another team without compensation to Buffalo.

If Kinnebrew plays to the form he showed at times with the Bengals, he could earn a place on the roster. During his career with the Bengals, he averaged 4 yards a carry and had four 100-yard rushing games.

Some of his best performances came against upstate-rival Cleveland. One of Kinnebrew's most memorable games was a three-touchdown performance against the Browns in a nationally televised Thursday night game at Cleveland Stadium. Cincinnati won, 30-14, and Kinnebrew ran for 96 yards.

"(Bengals president) Paul Brown and (general manager) Mike Brown always got sky-high when we played Cleveland, and I always got up for that game. I scored my first NFL touchdown on my first NFL carry against Cleveland.

"I just had this thing for Cleveland."

Kinnebrew had his moments, though, against other AFC Central opponents. He scored a Bengals-record four touchdowns against Houston in 1984 in the Astrodome. His longest career run was a 55-yarder against Pittsburgh in 1987.

The former Tennessee State star has been relatively free of major injuries during his career.

"I broke my ankle the last game of the season my rookie year," Kinnebrew said.

Kinnebrew thinks the year away from football will help more than it hurts.

"I think it has done me a whole lot of good," he said. "Usually, when I come to training camp I still have some nicks and little bruises left from the last season.

"Now my body feels real good and my mind is right. I want to get out there and hit someone."

Besides, Kinnebrew points out, while his birth certificate says he's 28, his football age is really only 27, because he took last year off from the sport.

HEIGHT: 6-1. WEIGHT: 260.

DATE OF BIRTH: June 11, 1959. ACQUIRED: 1989 free agent.
CAREER STATISTICS
Rush Pass Total
Year Team Att Yards Avg TD Rec. Yards Avg TD Pts
1983 Cincinnati Bengals 39 156 4.0 3 2 4 2.0 0 18
1984 Cincinnati Bengals 154 623 4.0 9 19 159 8.4 1 60
1985 Cincinnati Bengals 170 714 4.2 9 22 187 8.5 1 60
1986 Cincinnati Bengals 124 524 3.9 7 13 136 10.5 1 48
1987 Cincinnati Bengals 145 570 3.9 8 9 114 12.7 0 48
Totals 632 2,587 4.1 36 65 600 9.2 3 234

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