SEATTLE, OCT. 8 -- The once flowing moves, dulled from almost four years of disuse, are coming back to him now, with some new spins and twists. The end zone spike is revived, updated even to a whirring motion television just has to hold a camera on.

Derrick Fenner seems back to the top of his game. But the people closest to him are still waiting to see if he can stay there, and after yet another brush with the law last week, no one really knows.

Caution drapes over Fenner, the former All-Met running back from Oxon Hill, Md., as neatly as any silk shirt worn by the aspiring boutique owner. On probation until April for a cocaine possession conviction, he usually has found the most trouble just when stardom beckons, as it appears to be beckoning now.

Fenner was accused of kicking and hitting a man in a Seattle parking lot early last Tuesday morning. Though no charges have been filed, police are investigating and the Seahawks are holding their collective breath. He played Sunday against New England, and scored two more touchdowns, giving him an NFL-leading eight.

He had one gaudy, 144-yard game two weeks ago against Denver, a performance that rates as the best by a Seahawks runner since 1986. He ran for 60 yards and scored three touchdowns last Monday night against Cincinnati.

He has earned the job as the successor to Curt Warner, and perhaps more signficantly, a future in the NFL. Waived by Seattle on the final cut a month ago and re-signed, Fenner is the ultimate survivor.

But he also knows any violation of restrictions set by the league and team on his behavior off the field, and his playing days could be over.

"He'll either be a 10th-round guy who tried and didn't make it or a hell of a story," said Seahawks President Tom Flores a few days before Fenner's latest problems with the law. "And the story, I think, is still in the first chapter."

Until last week's incident, Fenner, 23, was a model employee in his 18 months with the Seahawks. He participated in their offseason conditioning programs, maintained a sterling civic image and, according to Flores, abided fully by the undisclosed rules the NFL and Seahawks assigned to him when he entered the league.

But for the first time since 1986, when as a University of North Carolina sophomore he led the ACC in rushing, Fenner must manage success. The vermin, as Flores calls those people who gravitated around Fenner before, never seem far behind. And the Seahawks say it is now up to Fenner to avoid the kind of lifestyle that once led to cocaine, a late-night incident in which a bullet grazed him, and an accusation of murder.

"Seattle's a lot slower than D.C., which is good for me," Fenner said in an interview before his alleged assault last week.

Fenner spent 44 days in a Maryland jail cell in 1987 on a murder charge that was subsequently dismissed when witnesses placed him at another location at the time of the shooting. "I've been fast-laning enough," he said.

Fenner still visits the nightclubs and wears exquisite clothing. He sees no reason why a reputation should trap a man in his own home, steal the ability to express his character and spirit.

Last Monday night he helped celebrate the first NFL touchdown of his hotel roommate, Tommy Kane, then mourned with the former Syracuse wide receiver when told after the game that Kane's father had died the previous day in Montreal. Nearly a continent from home, he found a soulmate in Chris Warren, a rookie running back from Burke, Va., and Ferrum College.

Warren, nearly identical to Fenner at 6 feet 2 and 225 pounds, laughs at how they had met just once previously, for an All-Met photo shoot in high school. They now cruise the suburban malls together, trolling for the stylings of Giorgio Armani and Hugo Boss.

Even the nickname Fenner suggested on his introductory bio sheet has gained a dimension. "Big Daddy" officially became one to a daughter six weeks ago, Naomi, whose mother lives in New York but plans to join him with the child in Seattle, Fenner said.

"That {baby} is another thing that just holds you up," he said. "It's no longer 'I' or 'me' or 'myself.' "

The Seahawks noticed the lack of first-person references after his breakthrough game against the Broncos, a 34-31 overtime loss for the Seahawks. Fenner had run for more yards in a game than any Seahawk other than Warner and Sherman Smith.

"We've been running, passing and moving the ball at will . . . and that's a good feeling," Fenner said before the Patriots game. "Right now my confidence is real high."

Despite getting 11 carries over the previous three years, Fenner said he never shared Flores' concern that he had lost his instincts as a runner. His simple answer was to stay in shape, and last summer he nudged his bench press over 400 pounds and reduced his body fat to about where he was as a college sophomore, 3 percent.

Not even a body beautiful, though, kept Fenner from the waiver wire. For 24 hours early last month his name floated around the league. No team cared to sample his potential, and finally he was re-signed by the Seahawks at $75,000 for the season.

Certainly in retrospect, the Seahawks' decision not to protect him seems ludicrous. But really, he had a dullish preseason, averaging less than three yards a carry. The Seahawks glanced at his statistics from a year ago, and that made the decision even easier.

"There also were a lot of backs with reputations that we knew were going to be released, guys like Joe Morris," Flores said. "So we took a chance, but we knew that everyone would be in the same situation."

Some gamble: Coach Chuck Knox was unimpressed enough with his options at halfback that he started a free agent rookie, Derek Loville, ahead of Fenner and Warren in the opener. Mostly out of default, Fenner got the call the next week against the Los Angeles Raiders.

He ran 13 times for 32 yards in that 17-14 loss, and caught two passes for 24 yards -- the kind of day most NFL halfbacks probably like to forget about. But the numbers were just enough to keep him in Knox's good graces, but not enough to get him seriously incorporated in the Broncos' defensive game plan.

Fenner already recalls the advice given him the night before the Denver game by veteran guard Edwin Bailey, whom he credits for "making me believe this was possible." Bailey told him to follow his block all afternoon.

"He said, 'Come out, have a good game and be like Muhammad Ali -- shock the world,' " Fenner said. "When he left the room, I said sarcastically, 'Right.' "

Now, if not The Greatest, he is at least the NFL equivalent of Buster Douglas -- an overnight sensation. Now, if he can stay out of trouble, it may even last. The ball is in his hands. How long it stays there is up to Derrick Fenner.