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Raiders Acquire Lofton From Green Bay : L.A. Disregards Fact the All-Pro Wide Receiver Is Awaiting Trial

Times Staff Writer

In the biggest move of their off-season, the Raiders Monday acquired James Lofton, the seven-time Pro Bowl receiver who is awaiting trial in Green Bay on a charge of second degree sexual assault.

In return, the Raiders gave the Packers two undisclosed draft choices. In Green Bay, a Packer spokesman said the picks are a No. 3 this year and a conditional selection in 1988.

“We are aware of the (legal) situation,” Raider executive assistant Al LoCasale said from San Diego, where he is attending an NFL public relations meeting. “I’d rather not say anything more about that.”

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(In an Associated Press story, another Raider spokesman, Steve Hartman, was quoted as saying: " . . . Yes, you can assume there are provisions, pending the outcome of the trial.”)

Lofton is scheduled to go on trial May 18. He was arrested in Green Bay last December and charged with having forced a woman to perform oral sex.

The Packers suspended him from the last game of the season. Tom Braatz, the Packers’ new personnel director, subsequently announced that Lofton would be traded, saying it would be better for the player and for the community.

Lofton was accused in a prior sexual assault, by a dancer in a Milwaukee night club in 1984. After investigation, the Milwaukee district attorney’s office filed no charges.

Lofton, 30, is a nine-year veteran who made the Pro Bowl in every season but 1981 and the last one. He had started every Packer game since being drafted No. 1 from Stanford in 1978. He is one of five receivers to have gained 1,000 yards in five different seasons. The others are Lance Alworth, Don Maynard, Steve Largent and Art Powell.

Last season, Lofton had 64 catches, a 13.1-yard average and four touchdowns, quiet totals for him. He went into the season with an 18.1-yard average.

“He’s a case where the statistics kind of speak for themselves,” LoCasale said. “He has 530 receptions, one of only 15 guys who ever played in the NFL who’ve caught over 500.

“I think one of the better stats is that until last year in the game in which he was suspended, he had started and played in 136 consecutive games. That’s a sign of real durability. He’s a quality football player and we finished last year with a lot of wounded receivers.”

Said Packer Coach Forrest Gregg in a prepared statement:

“James Lofton has been a truly great football player for the Green Bay Packers. He has had an outstanding career by any yardstick you might use. . . .

“The fact that he has caught more passes than any player in our history speaks for itself. We are confident that James will continue to play outstanding football and we wish him well.”

The Raiders had already shaken up their young receiver corps, signing Canadian League star Mervyn Fernandez. They had long held Fernandez’s draft rights, however, and that move was expected. The Raiders announced it the day after Fernandez’s CFL contract expired.

The acquisition of Lofton, however, was a surprise. Aside from his legal entanglement, Lofton earns $835,000 a season ($435,000 in base salary plus a $400,000 reporting bonus), which will make him the third-highest-paid Raider, behind Marcus Allen and Marc Wilson.

The Raiders are reported to have been one of six NFL teams that lost money last season. They and the San Francisco 49ers are thought to have been the two biggest money losers. But Al Davis has a long history of successes with highly paid veterans thought past their prime and expendable elsewhere. Monday, Davis opened a new chapter.


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