Just when the Raiders felt they were being treated fairly for once by the National Football League, they got hit with a haymaker.
Defensive end Greg Townsend, who was suspended and then reinstated last week in time to play an important role in the Raiders' 14-10 win over Seattle on Sunday, was suspended again Monday without pay for Sunday's game against the Miami Dolphins.
"I'm shocked all over again," Townsend said after being told of the suspension when he arrived at team headquarters in El Segundo for a brief mid-afternoon workout. "I thought it was all behind me, and now we're back to Square 1.
"I was sure that the new evidence we showed them (NFL officials) last Friday convinced them that I was provoked and didn't warrant a suspension. I expected a fine, but not this. Not the week we play Dan Marino."
Marino, the Dolphin quarterback, is considered to have the quickest release of any passer in the NFL, which makes the task of a pass rusher even more important. Townsend is a pass rush specialist in his fourth year with the Raiders.
In a statement released by the NFL, Commissioner Pete Rozelle said:
"I have again reviewed the evidence, including additional videotape provided at the hearing in Los Angeles last Friday and Greg Townsend's version of the events in question during the Los Angeles Raiders-Kansas City game of Oct. 5. Having done so, my final determination is that Townsend will be suspended without pay for the Raiders' next game, Oct. 19, vs. Miami."
Townsend originally was suspended last Wednesday. The Raiders appealed the suspension and were granted a hearing last Friday. Townsend was then reinstated Saturday.
Townsend said he hoped to make yet another appeal to Rozelle today, but Raider Coach Tom Flores said he thought there would be no more discussion.
"We called the NFL office and were told this was final," Flores said. "I am absolutely at a loss for words. I thought all that was behind us. We presented our case and Townsend was reinstated. When they said a decision would be handed down, I expected them to fine him, as well as some of the other players on both sides of the field. I would certainly not be opposed to that. We don't condone unnecessary rough play, but a suspension. Why?
"I have run out of whys. Why did they do it again? Why at this time? Why this fine young man? Why hurt the entire Raiders team? Why? Why?"
NFL fines are not announced publicly. The league sends a letter to the player, owner and coach and the team is instructed to take the amount of the fine out of his check.
"I don't recall more than two or three suspensions in the 21 years I've been around the Raiders," Flores said. "And usually there has been a warning first. This totally puzzles me."
Townsend, who said that Raider videotapes showed that he had been provoked in the Kansas City game by both Brad Budde and Todd Blackledge before kicking at David Lutz and ripping the helmet off Mark Adickes, questioned the timing of his second suspension.
"Why do you suppose they lifted the suspension for a game against (Seattle quarterback) David Krieg and held it off a week until the time the team really needed me against Dan Marino?" he said.
As the Raiders enter the seventh week of the season, Flores has another problem that many of his fellow coaches probably would like to have.
He has a recuperating starting quarterback, Marc Wilson, and a veteran backup, Jim Plunkett, who has led the team to its last two wins, over Kansas City and Seattle.
He has a recuperating superstar running back, Marcus Allen, and a rookie replacement, Napoleon McCallum, who has gained 201 yards in 53 carries for a 3.8 average in the last three games.
All of them want the football.
The Raiders, 3-3 after winning three in a row, will face Miami (2-4) in the Orange Bowl, and Flores must decide which two will start.
"You can't just flip a coin," Flores told reporters during a quiet moment before Townsend's suspension was announced. "You have to make a decision on what you think is best, and I am not prepared to make that decision yet."
Wilson has a sore thumb that knocked him out of the Kansas City game in the third quarter, trailing 17-14, and kept him out of the Seattle game.
"If Marc's thumb is fully healed this week, we'll have to face the quarterback situation," Flores said. "There's no question that Jim has done a good job for us. But don't forget, Marc was playing well before he was hurt.
"If Marc is 100%, there's a good chance we'll go back to the way it was. Wilson will start and Jim will be the backup. But last week, when Marc tried to pass, the thumb hurt. When that happens, the grip changes, the velocity changes and a quarterback can't throw properly. Marc's thumb was so tender that if something had happened to Jim against Seattle, I would have brought in Rusty Hilger."
Allen has a sprained right ankle that he twisted against the New York Giants four games ago. He missed both the San Diego and Kansas City games and was used sparingly against Seattle, averaging an un-Allen-like 1.8 yards in six carries.
"We know what Allen can do, so obviously, if he's 100% he will be the starter, but Sunday he wasn't 100%," Flores said.
Allen said after Sunday's game that he was "only about 60%" but he felt he could have been used more. When he limped off the field early in the fourth period, after apparently being reinjured, he did not play again.
"Naturally, we want Marcus back, but we want him back at full speed," Flores said. "As long as he's not, we told him we'd use him in spots. Which is what we did.
"If you want to look at it another way, his injury has given us a long look at McCallum, and he has been a plus. He has really helped us. It's not often you have the opportunity to test a rookie as much as we've tested him."