Burgess opens up doors for others

After leading the league in sacks a year ago, Oakland Raiders defensive end Derrick Burgess has been blanked over two games to open the 2006 NFL season. That doesn't mean he hasn't had an impact.

Derrick Burgess is more comfortable with a frontal assault than a sneak attack.

The NFL leader in sacks in 2005 with 16, Burgess set the franchise record coming from the left side.

Most of the NFL's premiere pass rushers come from the right side, or at the blind side of a right-handed quarterback.

"It's like second nature to me," Burgess said. "It's what I'm comfortable with because I've always played left end."

Through two games, Burgess does not have a sack. Despite postseason heroics with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2004 -- he sacked Michael Vick twice in the playoffs and had another in the Super Bowl -- he caught the NFL by surprise in 2005.

Burgess had only 8.5 career sacks with the Eagles but racked up seven by midseason for the Raiders. He began getting extra attention, which increased throughout the season. It has been even more extreme in 2006 as he essentially faces an obstacle course of tackles, tight ends and running backs to get to the quarterback.

It's also a fact that opponents have been able to get leads against a mistake-prone Oakland offense and so they haven't had to pass as much.

"The situations haven't been good which is not an excuse," Burgess said. "At the same time offenses have been doing a good job of slide protecting which is cool. But then Sapp is going to come through and guys like that. It will all work itself out in the long run. I'm not panicking. Are you panicking?"

Sapp had two sacks in Oakland's 28-6 loss to Baltimore, in part because of the attention outside on Burgess.

It's also a fact that Burgess' sack total last year came in bunches. He had six two-sack games -- including three in a row -- pushing his total from one to seven in a four-week span.

Burgess likes the idea of being regarded as an all-around player, rather than a pass rush specialist. Michael Strahan, another prominent pass rusher, also plays on the left side.

"He's a hell of a player, a rusher and a run-stopper," Burgess said. "I love that about him. That's a defensive end there. Stop the run and pass rush."


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