Al Davis strongly suggested Monday that Los Angeles politicians were to blame for his deciding to move the Raiders back to Oakland in 1992.
"(NFL Commissioner Paul) Tagliabue tried to send a message at the Super Bowl (two months ago) that the Coliseum has been found wanting," Davis, a Raider owner since 1963, said a few minutes after telephoning the Oakland negotiators from his hotel.
He was referring to a January news conference at which Tagliabue, on behalf of the NFL, described the Coliseum as unacceptable for pro football.
Davis' implication was that if, after getting that message, Los Angeles' negotiators had gotten on with the job of repairing their 70-year-old stadium, they could have kept the Raider franchise.
"L.A. (politicians) should have done much more much earlier," Davis said. "They reneged on the (promises) they made to me verbally and also in writing."
Raider spokesmen allege, first, that plans for Coliseum improvements were authorized in the early 1980s by the Coliseum Commission members who brought the club to Los Angeles; and, second, that these plans were scrapped when the membership of the board changed.
Asked to elaborate on what happened to keep the commission from rebuilding the Coliseum, Davis remarked: "I'm not going to get into that."
The question of whether there were oral promises was recently addressed in a Coliseum-Raider lawsuit, and a court held there were no such promises.
Last Friday, Davis left Oakland waiting for his announcement, he said, because, "I wasn't ready to make a decision."
Later, he said he postponed the decision to give Los Angeles another chance, hoping that the Coliseum Commission would meet with Spectacor, the Coliseum's operating company, over the weekend and come up with an alternative.
Even so, Davis has not yet cut all his ties to Southern California.
"Our (Coliseum) lease has another two years to go," he said. "We expect to play in Los Angeles in 1990 and 1991. We'll also stay at Oxnard and El Segundo (for the time being)."
The club's summer training camp is at Oxnard, its offices at El Segundo.
Asked if he thinks he can sell any Raider tickets this fall, he said: "We're selling them."
Leaving every door open, he added: "I respect Los Angeles. I respect Sacramento (which he turned down earlier this month as a relocation site)."
Davis insisted that the Oakland move is only conditional.
"This isn't a fait accompli, " he said. "There is attorney language (to consider), there are bonds to sell.
"I told the (Oakland politicians) that the Raiders will be happy to return under the following conditions: If they get the vote of (the city and county), and if all the documents are acceptable to the Raiders."
By documents, he meant the official papers validating the $600 million that Oakland has promised Davis in the way of stadium improvements, a franchise fee and other considerations.
The $600 million contrasts starkly with the $13 million in stadium improvements he sought from Oakland in 1980 before moving to Los Angeles.
It is because Oakland let him get away the first time that the Raider owner is wary of making any plans except conditionally.
"I thought we had a deal with Irwindale," he said, alluding to the Los Angeles suburb that once sealed their agreement with an unconditional $10 million present to the club.
"I thought we were going to stay in Oakland (in 1980). I thought we were going to get the Coliseum (improved) in Los Angeles. There are a lot of perils in (moving). Something could still go wrong."
For that and other reasons, Davis answered few questions precisely and avoided all hypothetical questions with the same phrase: "Let the process go on."
Thus, before he will declare flatly that he is Oakland-bound, he wants "to be sure that Oakland gets the job done."
Sidestepping reports that the San Francisco 49ers want an indemnity if the Raiders move into their territory, Davis said: "They were selling 35,000 tickets (in a 60,000-seat stadium) when we left--and they offered to pay our bus ride to L.A."
He admitted that Oakland fans will be getting an also-ran team this time to replace the winner they had when the Raiders were there before.
"We've slipped in the last few years," he said. "We've (usually) been in it until the last game of the season--if that's slipping."
Of the Raider years in Los Angeles, he only has one regret.
"I regret the effect that (the move) had on my team and my life, and the lives of so many other (Raiders)," he said. "It was all so unnecessary."
* GOING BACK: Raider owner Al Davis said Monday that the team is returning to Oakland. A1.
* L.A. HISTORY: Highs have soared and lows have been hellish for the zaniest of organizations. C4.
* OAKLAND REACTION: Fans by the Bay say they won't have to call the team the Traitors anymore. C5.