Denver Is Foe, Not Shanahan : Raiders: Shell, players avoid bulletin-board fodder concerning their deposed coach, now employed by Broncos.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Here are some things the Raiders did not do Monday as they prepared to meet the Denver Broncos and their old coach, Mike Shanahan:

--Hang a pinata shaped like Shanahan and have everyone bash it with that helmet he once couldn't sit on.

--Spit once-forbidden-in-the-locker room sunflower seeds at it.

--Give the pinata an assigned seat at a team meeting, like the ones they used to have to sit in.

"We're going to play the Denver Broncos," said Art Shell, promoted eight weeks ago when Shanahan was fired. "The football players are going to play the game on the football field.

"We're not playing Dan Reeves, we're not playing Mike Shanahan, we're not playing Earl Leggett (Raider defensive line coach who went to Denver this season). We're just playing the football players."

And his players?

"I want to show my old coach, all right," Howie Long said. "His name's Earl Leggett."

Two weeks after his firing by the Raiders, Shanahan went back to his old job as Bronco quarterback coach. No Raider has ripped him personally since he left, although many have said they were glad to return to the traditional customs of the old regime. In Shanahan's few public comments, he has been gracious, thanking Al Davis, congratulating Shell, saying only that the situation hadn't been right for him.

Of course, the Raiders don't need to cast around for motivation. They're still up to their neck in alligators in the wild-card race. They have two home games before their final two on the road, and they need at least three victories, so what does that make this game?

M-U-S-T.

Wouldn't it be ducky for them if the Broncos (10-2), having just clinched the AFC West, and leaders by two games in the race to stay home throughout the playoffs, showed up fat and happy?

Shell doesn't feel like banking on it or thinking about it.

"I don't care," he said, stonily. "I really don't care.

"Understand where I'm coming from. I only care about the Raiders, not the Broncos. I don't care whether the Broncos are ready. Whether they're ready or not, we're going to be ready to play football."

A week ago, the Raiders trailed four wild-card contenders: Miami by two games; Houston by two games with the Oilers owning a head-on victory; Cincinnati by a game; and Indianapolis, which is tied in the standings with them, but which has a better conference record.

Last week, the Dolphins, Oilers and Bengals all lost.

The Raiders are still fighting uphill, needing to catch and pass three of the four.

They're a game behind Miami, which was buried at home by the Steelers. Next for the Dolphins: at Kansas City. Could Sunday have been Miami's version of that 14-12 Raider loss to the Chargers a week ago?

The Raiders are one behind the Oilers. Next for Houston: at Pittsburgh.

The Raiders are tied with Cincinnati in the standings, but have two potential tiebreaks over them. Next for the Bengals: at Cleveland.

The Raiders are tied with Indianapolis, but trail in conference record (5-4 to 5-5). Next for the Colts: at New England. A key game for the Raiders, who need the Colts to lose.

The Raiders are tied with Pittsburgh, but lead in conference records (5-5 to 4-5). Next: Oilers.

Raider Notes

Dan Reeves said that making his 8-2 Broncos underdogs to the 5-5 Redskins showed a lack of respect. Wait 'til he sees that his 10-2 Broncos are an early two-point underdog to the 6-6 Raiders. . . . Marcus Allen returned to practice last week, but only worked lightly. Art Shell says he may try some contact work this week. . . . Safety Vann McElroy says he's ready, but the Raiders have been moving slowly with him, happy with the play of Eddie Anderson, an Al Davis favorite. . . . Shell, on the hit on Bo Jackson by New England defensive back Fred Marion, who blind-sided him just as Jackson caught a pass: "It shook him up a little. It shook me up, too, I mean to tell you. I think it surprised Marion more than it surprised Bo." Afterward, however, Jackson got only 43 yards in 15 carries. . . . Shell was less than his usual effusive self, terming the Raider performance "not bad," saying the running game "might not have gone like we wanted it to," but adding it was "a good win for us and I'm proud of this football team."

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