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Fans May Boo Him, but the Raiders Are Counting on Wilson

Times Staff Writer

Whew! This is a tough house, as Jim Plunkett learned Sunday, when he left the Coliseum field almost doubled over by the pain of his separated shoulder and some people cheered.

Or as Marc Wilson learned, when he trotted in for Plunkett and a lot of people booed.

Or as the rest of the Raiders learned Monday, when they got to their El Segundo training facility and found a man at the door wearing a paper bag over his head.

He identified himself as Willy Hubbard, a painter from Redondo Beach and a Raider fan, thus adding credence to the suggestion that Raider fans are like no others.

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“I’ve been a Raider fan for 15 years,” he said. “That’s my truck over there.”

Sure enough, there was a painter’s pickup truck in the Raider parking lot, with a Raider sticker on the back.

He said he was wearing the bag “to rib them.” Seeing as how they were just hours away from a 34-10 loss, that was real dedication to comedy.

He actually exchanged greetings with several players, most of whom just grunted at him. He was finally asked to move on by a member of the Raider front office, and in a mild upset, drove off still wearing his head.

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Plunkett was put on injured reserve Monday. He remained in Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, undergoing tests to see if he’ll need surgery. Wilson, a starter for the third time in three seasons, was talking about his own hometown reception.

“In some respects, yeah, I was surprised,” he said, laughing.

“I hadn’t done one thing. I had just showed up. Maybe I parked in the wrong spot.”

Maybe. A year ago, Wilson was still regarded as a top prospect, the one Al Davis had reeled back in from the USFL at great cost in 1983. He became a starter that same week in ’83, throwing for 318 yards in a 40-38 win over the Dallas Cowboys in Texas Stadium.

“That was a great game he played against us that Sunday night,” a Cowboy official said to a Raider official at one of the training camp scrimmages at Thousand Oaks.

“Yeah,” the Raider said. “Cost us $800,000 a year.”

You think there hasn’t been a change in Marc Wilson’s status?

Last season he hurt his right thumb in the Bear carnage at Chicago on Nov. 4, but Plunkett was already out and Wilson was obliged to throw wobbly passes for a month.

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His subsequent great game in Miami--two scoring passes including a 75-yarder off a scramble to Dokie Williams--was followed by two lackluster ones, and Plunkett was named No. 1 for the playoffs. The Raiders were thought to have tired of waiting for Wilson to take charge.

And he was getting, at least, the drift.

“I came in to have my knee ‘scoped in March and they told me at that point that Jim was going to be the quarterback,” Wilson said. “That makes it a little tough mentally when that kind of decision is made that early.”

Could he feel himself losing ground?

“I guess,” he said. “I would imagine that decision to play Jim in March substantiates that.

“In college (BYU), it happened one year. Jim McMahon and I shared time. My junior year, I started the first five or six games and he started the last five or six games. My senior year, he redshirted. That was the way it was with all the quarterbacks. I redshirted, Gifford (Nielsen) did. Jim took it a little different. He didn’t like it. he made his stance known.

“There are so many things that go into a quarterback’s performance, some things that tend to get overlooked when things are going well. Consequently when things go badly, the same things are overlooked. His play is a function of everyone’s play.”

That is not to deny that John Elway--whom Davis tried to acquire--or Joe Montana wouldn’t make a difference in silver and black. But it should be noted that in the halcyon days of 1983, when there still was a running game and dropped passes were more of a rarity than catches, Plunkett and Wilson took the Raiders to a 12-4 season. Then they romped through the playoffs by a combined score of 106-33.

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Now their offensive line is struggling. The Raiders hope that the return of Curt Marsh, possibly in three weeks, will help.

Footballs are falling off their new receivers’ hands. Jessie Hester dropped another pass Sunday, and Jim Smith failed to hold one in the end zone.

Hester also caught three passes for 77 yards, giving him 8 for 146 yards in two games. Smith is an established player. Dokie Williams has been fine, so school isn’t out yet.

But any improvements the Raiders make, they’ll have to make on the fly, and behind a new quarterback, who was asked if the Raiders didn’t now have to rally behind him.

Said Wilson: “The team has to rally, period.”

Raider Notes

Dr. Robert Rosenfeld, the Raider orthopedist, said that Plunkett’s separated left shoulder keeps slipping out. “The only problem is if we have to sew it (operate) or if nature does it,” Rosenfeld said. The time frame, Rosenfeld said, would remain the same, at least six weeks, whether surgery is required or not. Five players can be brought back from injured reserve provided they were put on the list after the season started. Still, there is a question about what a prolonged absence will mean to a 37-year-old quarterback. . . . The Raiders announced late Monday afternoon that they had re-signed halfback Steve Strachan to take Plunkett’s spot on the roster. . . . What ever happened to Dan Reeder? Reeder, the leading rusher in the exhibition season, was waived in the last cut. Strachan had gone in the cut the week before. . . . Guard Charley Hannah, hospitalized overnight with a strained right knee, will probably be listed as questionable for Sunday’s game at New England and has a good chance to play. . . . The opening line: Patriots are two-point favorites.


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