El Segundo went up in smoke Wednesday, or at least the Raiders' segment did. Home from their comeback victory in Kansas City and accused by John Mackovic of trying to hurt his players, the Raiders saw the National Football League office come down on the Chief coach's side with a one-game suspension of Greg Townsend.
The Raider reaction? Rage.
Raider players had already begun asking how they got their tough early-season schedule. ("There's something rotten in Denmark," Howie Long said.) They were stung by Mackovic's charges, and then the league seemed to uphold Mackovic.
"I'm very upset," Tom Flores said late Wednesday afternoon. "And the timing--I'm informed in the middle of the afternoon, on the field, while we're practicing our defensive game plan, the week of a big game (the Raiders play Seattle at the Coliseum Sunday).
"Something like this is totally uncalled for. It's very upsetting."
Raider executive Al LoCasale said: "It's totally unfair. This comes as a bolt out of the blue with no forewarning. Their normal procedure of review is 10 days, but things are more pressing where the Raiders are concerned.
"That is not to condone what may have taken place. We don't condone violence, and I have not seen what they have seen. But this is an anti-competitive situation, coming after our defensive work is finished. It leaves you little way to adjust."
Townsend was suspended for his part in the melee near the end of the first half. He first fought Chief guard Brad Budde and then center Mark Adickes, tearing Adickes' helmet off. Adickes suffered a twisted neck. Budde had his nose broken by Long, who arrived later.
Townsend says he tripped over Budde while pursuing the play, that Budde started swinging, that Adickes jumped in later and hit him from behind. He has acknowledged kicking Adickes in the head.
"I didn't get a chance to get my lick in," Townsend said Wednesday. "He (Adickes) really hit me. He really scared me."
Mackovic first aired his charges against Townsend, Long and Mike Haynes in a Tuesday press conference in which he showed film of Sunday's game and two previous Raider-Chief meetings. He sent the film to NFL headquarters, where it was reviewed.
Even before the NFL announced Townsend's suspension, the Raiders were reacting angrily.
"I know all those Kansas City Chiefs are going to heaven," Long said, "but they're not angels."
Lester Hayes, apparently dragged into this whole thing on a mistake made by Associated Press' Kansas City bureau, had already called it "far-fetched BS" and had already called Mackovic "a crybaby" who was "probably under fire and looking for a scapegoat."
Haynes, who was the Raider actually charged with spearing Carlos Carson, said it was "totally ridiculous."
Haynes said: "I bumped him one time. We were running side by side, and they completed a pass to Boyce Green on the other side of the field. He (Carson) is on offense, and I'm on defense, and he can throw a block at me. To get him off me, I bumped him. I was standing shoulder-to-shoulder with him."
Hayes said: "I never got a chance to jam Carlos Carson. And I was looking forward to it all off-season."
At Wednesday morning's Raider press breakfast, Flores offered his first rebuttal.
"We don't condone violence," he said. "We don't teach it. We never have and never will. We teach aggressive football. We don't teach illegal chop blocks, which unfortunately are still being used around the league (the Raiders have had several incidents with the San Francisco 49ers, whom they accuse of chop-blocking).
"We played Sunday's game at one point without six of our starters. We had people hurt. Any time you play a game like that, with that kind of intensity, you're going to have injuries. Last year, we lost Jim Plunkett on what we felt was an illegal hit (by the 49ers' Jeff Stover).
"There are ways to handle these things. When you complain about something, you do it through the league office. You do it without any fanfare. You might briefly mention it to the press, but it's my understanding it's a violation of the league rules to show a film the way I guess it was shown. If we did it, we'd probably be fined.
"After two games, we were being accused of not being tough enough. . . . We've struggled enough without being accused of these things.
"Going all the way back to 1976 (Mackovic seemed to endorse Steeler Coach Chuck Noll's famous complaint, which accompanied a civil suit in a Pittsburgh court) and dragging out those memories--there are only two guys left from that era, Henry Lawrence and Ray Guy. I don't think you can call them a 'criminal element.' "
The Raiders, of course, are quite aggressive but they seemed to be trying to clean up the brawling, especially in the last two seasons. Flores, unhappy at all the 15-yard penalties, is thought to have told his players to knock it off.
Raiders are now frequently seen pulling other Raiders away from arguments. A recent Sports Illustrated poll of players named Long, Haynes and Marcus Allen among the game's 10 cleanest players.
Haynes has long enjoyed a reputation as one of the NFL's classiest players. Seahawk wide receiver Steve Largent, asked Wednesday about the charge against Haynes, said, "That would really surprise me."
Long was complimented on the air Sunday by NBC's Bob Trumpy for the gentlemanly way he treated Chief quarterback Todd Blackledge, who got rid of the ball just before Long arrived on a pass rush.
"Obviously, they're trying to get people to watch us more closely," Long said.
"I just wish John Mackovic was out there with a helmet on during that fight . . . You didn't know where the next punch was coming from. From sideline to sideline, there was something going on.
"I said the penalty I got was justified. I saw Sean Jones lying on the ground with his helmet off and Brad Budde run up and take a swing at him. That's when I got Budde. That's when the nose thing happened (Budde suffered a broken nose). It was just a fight, and I happened to hit him in the nose. I think it was the same thing Brad Budde would do for one of his teammates.
"I think if you talked to the players on their team, they'd say I'm not a dirty player. I've never tried to hurt another player and I never will. But you have to defend yourself. If you don't know how to fight, don't get in a fight.
"He (Mackovic) didn't mention their tight ends trying to take our knees out. He's been coaching that for years. How about Stacey Toran getting called for pass interference and one of their coaches putting his finger in his (Toran's) face on the sideline? How about Carl Mauck (Chief offensive line coach) taunting me from the sideline?
"If I was John Mackovic, I'd watch what I had to say. If I'm referred to as a criminal element, I might contact my attorney. I didn't appreciate that comment."
Before the NFL action was announced, Flores told his players not to dwell on Mackovic's charges. Hayes said: "Coach Flores says as far as the Chiefs' game goes, it's null and void." Flores said he didn't want his players distracted, or worrying about what the game officials might do.
Later he found out he had a more tangible concern, too. He's missing one pass rusher.
"Another obstacle," he said.
Raider Notes Greg Townsend is the left defensive end on the Raiders' four-man line. He has 3 1/2 sacks, tying him with Bill Pickel for second on the team. His place Sunday will probably be taken by linebacker Linden King. . . . Townsend is thought to make $125,000, so one game off would cost him $7,812.50. . . . The Raider injury report: Marcus Allen, Frank Hawkins, Henry Lawrence and Mike Haynes will all be listed as "probable" for Sunday's game against the Seahawks. Marc Wilson will be questionable, but Coach Tom Flores said his sore right thumb has improved noticeably.