If the Raiders were braced for bad news Monday, they got more than they bargained for. Marcus Allen began his holdout, as did Bill Lewis, and just to tie a ribbon around the day, starting guard Dale Hellestrae broke a bone in his left leg.
Lewis, who started at center last season, can play Hellestrae’s position. In fact, he is one of the team’s few experienced linemen who can, but he has already filed a grievance against the club and may sue. Al Davis doesn’t laugh such challenges off, so if things haven’t already gone too far for an amicable settlement, they’re close.
And then there’s Marcus . . .
As is Lewis, Allen is on his option year, and thus under contract. Allen can’t be reached for comment, and his agent, Ed Hookstratten, has not returned calls for a week. The Raiders, as usual, aren’t talking, so this promises to be a quiet confrontation.
Allen was paid $1 million last season, would have to have been offered $1.1 million for this one, and reportedly was offered a little more than that.
However, Allen is said to have his eye on Bo Jackson’s numbers: $840,000 in salary; a $100,000 reporting bonus and a $416,000 signing bonus (although $966,000 of that $1,356,000 total is deferred).
Allen has played hurt for the last two seasons and moved over to fullback for Jackson without complaint. However, a certain rivalry is said to have begun last season.
Jackson was unhappy that he came out of games in goal-line situations. The Raiders may have been afraid he’d fumble. But after Allen, playing with a cast on his fractured left wrist, fumbled at the goal line in a late-season loss, the Raiders began taking him out and putting in Jackson. Allen reportedly didn’t like it any more than Jackson did.
There is also speculation that Allen, among others, is wishing for a deal that would send him to the Rams. That would reunite him with his coach at USC, John Robinson, and let him romp behind the strong Ram line.
Without Allen, and of course, without Jackson, the Raiders are down two Heisman Trophy winners and short in general. The only veteran tailback is Vance Mueller. The only other halfbacks in camp are journeyman Curtis Adams and No. 8 draft pick Derrick Gainer.
“We’ve got some inexperience there, no question about it,” Coach Mike Shanahan said.
“I think I’ve already expressed how I feel about Marcus. Now I’ve got to concentrate on the people who are here.
“Any time you have a system, you’d love to have all your players in, but that’s not always the way it goes in the NFL. That’s part of the business. You have to practice with the people you have.”
Lewis and his agent, Larry Muno, say that Lewis only lost his starting job because of his contract situation. Shanahan says he had already decided to switch Don Mosebar back to center in any case.
In any case, Lewis, at 6-7, 275, is big enough to play other line positions. He was voted the team’s outstanding offensive lineman by his linemates last season. One preseason publication, the respected Don Heinrich’s Pro Review, calls him “the best center in the division.”
The Raiders protected Lewis on their 37-man list during the Plan B free-agency period, but did, apparently, make the decision to switch Mosebar to his position shortly thereafter. Mosebar was notified that he’d be going back to center several weeks before Lewis passed up mini-camp.
Allen didn’t attend mini-camp, either. He and Lewis tried to use the weight room during the session, but Shanahan told them if they weren’t going to practice, they’d have to leave the facility.
They left and kept right on going.
The Raiders say Dale Hellestrae will be out six to 12 weeks. Hellestrae was one of the Raiders’ Plan B free agents, a former No. 4 pick of the Buffalo Bills. He missed the 1985 season with a hip problem, was on injured reserve for eight games in ’86 with a broken wrist, and on injured reserve for 12 games in ’87 with a broken thumb . . . Rookie Steve Wisniewski moves up to the No. 1 right guard. The left guard spot is being contested by last year’s No. 10 pick, Newt Harrell, and utility man John Gesek.