The noblest Raider of them all, Rod Martin, outside linebacker, defensive captain and dean of the playing roster, is a Raider no more. The team waived him Thursday, along with veterans Charley Hannah and Ron Fellows.
It happened to a lot of friends of mine," Martin said Thursday night. "I knew it was going to eventually happen to me. I'm going on with my life.
"Not playing last year made it real hard on me. It wasn't fun any more. I'm the last of the (John) Madden era. All of my friends were gone, basically. It just wasn't a pleasant year last year."
Martin, 35, was offered a choice between retiring and being waived by Coach Mike Shanahan, and chose the latter, to see if anyone else is interested.
"I'm going to leave the door open," he said. "I'm still healthy. I've been healthy through my career. Who knows, maybe I can still get another year in."
Martin attended Hamilton High School and USC and entered professional football as a lowly 12th-round pick in 1977. He was drafted only because Madden, the Raider coach, called his old friend, then-USC Coach John Robinson, and asked if he had any likely overlooked prospects.
As a rookie, Martin was cut by the Raiders, signed and then cut by the 49ers, then re-signed by the Raiders. He went on to a stellar 12-year career, highlighted by the 1980 Super Bowl victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, in which he intercepted three passes--still the game's record--and was named its outstanding player.
Hannah and Fellows were actually just not invited back, since their contracts have expired. Hannah, 33, was a starter at left guard for most of the time since arriving from Tampa Bay in a 1982 trade. He wasn't a Raider dominator type in the Gene Upshaw tradition, but was nevertheless well thought of for his precise techniques. In 1985, NFL Films even named him to its All-Pro team, which was the only all-pro honor this brother of the great John Hannah ever got.
He was still a solid starter until tearing up a knee at New Orleans midway through last season, requiring reconstructive surgery.
Fellows was cut last season but returned after the injury to Terry McDaniel in the season's second game, and started at the left corner the rest of the way. He was a pleasant surprise for a while but apparently not pleasant enough.
The club announced that three other veterans wouldn't be asked back--linebacker Milt McColl and offensive linemen Dwight Wheeler and Mike Freeman. Wheeler has been cut and resigned annually for most of the 1980s, but this early Raider announcement stems from this year's new rule, limiting clubs to 80 players at the start of camp.