A football game down the freeway might have determined the Raiders’ fate Sunday, but the mood in El Segundo was business as usual for Coach Art Shell, who was not transfixed to broadcast accounts of San Diego’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Shell checked in periodically for updates, sure, but he led no cheers for the Chargers and hoisted no banners in their support.
A San Diego victory would have clinched the AFC West for the Raiders. Shell just shrugged his shoulders, as if his Raiders were so desperate for help.
San Diego didn’t win. The Raiders didn’t clinch. Shell returned to view film of the Chargers, next week’s home opponent.
“I would love to see San Diego win the game and assure us of winning the division,” Shell said while the game was in progress. “But again, I’ve said all along, we’ve got to take care of our own business. We can’t depend on other people. You have to do it yourself.”
Next Sunday’s game still might not mean anything if Chicago defeats the Chiefs on Saturday, but Shell said he is planning an all-out assault on the Chargers whether the division title has been secured or not.
“As I see it now, it’s full throttle for everybody,” he said. “We still want to be 12-4. That’s what we’re striving for. It’s the final game of our mini-season before we get into our other season.”
The Raiders have legitimate reasons to consider taking it easy, should the division title be decided before they take the field. Saturday’s 28-24 victory over Minnesota did not come without a price.
The team confirmed that linebacker Jerry Robinson fractured his left hand. Cornerback Lionel Washington, who pulled a hamstring in practice last week, tried to play against the Vikings but pulled himself out of the game early.
Defensive end Greg Townsend aggravated an old neck injury and left the game late. Receiver Tim Brown sprained an ankle. So did Bo Jackson.
Shell said all would play next week--even Robinson, who will be fitted with a cast.
“It’s not going to be a game where we decide, ‘Well, we’re just going to rest players because we’re in the playoffs, so there’s no need to play people,’ ” Shell said. “We’re not going to do that.”
Though he’s still a relatively new head coach, Shell has pushed all the right motivational buttons in 1990, his most impressive feat coming when he righted his team after the Raiders lost three of four games in November. They had fallen to 7-4 and lost the division lead to the Chiefs. Shell challenged his team to a five-game mini-series to close the season. The Raiders have won four consecutive games since Shell redefined the terms.
He didn’t care how or why the Raiders bought his pitch.
“Whatever works in their mind, great,” Shell said.
Even though he’s been a head coach less than two seasons, Shell said he has picked up a few tricks along the way.
“I’ve experienced most of the things that I’m doing,” he said. “I’ve been around great motivational coaches. John Madden and Tom Flores did an outstanding job of motivating people. I was motivated in college, I was motivated in high school. So all the things that I’ve learned throughout the years. . . . And you come up with your own ideas just trying to find out what makes players tick.”
After Saturday’s victory, the Raiders were relative stone faces. Shell has them thinking beyond the outcome of one game. The Raiders were acting like a team with another month to go to play.
“I think the players really know--we’ve talked about this--that we’ve come a long way,” he said. “We’ve accomplished some things. But I think if you get a little excited, you lose sight of the fact that there’s a lot more down the road for you. We enjoyed the victory, but we don’t get too excited, because we really haven’t accomplished what we want to accomplish yet.”
The Chiefs postponed the first step, winning the AFC West crown, with Sunday’s victory over the Chargers. But the way the Raiders are playing, they don’t seem concerned about having to wait another week.
What does it feel like to get run over by Bo Jackson? In Saturday’s game, Minnesota’s running back coach, John Brunner, was leveled by the Raider tailback after Jackson ran out of bounds after a 12-yard gain in the second half. Brunner suffered bruised ribs and described the account to the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “It’s as hard as I’ve been hit in a long time,” he said. “I was in a car accident in Tampa a few years ago which hurt, and this time I felt like I got hit by a van.” . . . Willie Gault needs 45 receiving yards next week to surpass 1,000 yards for the first time in his nine-year career. . . . The Raiders have a light practice scheduled for today and will be off Christmas Day.