Raiders to Keep Chiefs Guessing : Pro football: Reporters are banned from practice for first time since the team moved to L.A. in 1982.
Twenty-four hours after raising the curtain on rookie quarterback Todd Marinovich, the Raiders dropped one on the media, announcing Monday that practices would be closed this week in preparation for Saturday’s wild-card playoff game against Kansas City.
It marks the first time since moving to Los Angeles in 1982 that the Raiders have restricted media access.
“I have my reasons,” Coach Art Shell said. “Things that I don’t want to get out of here and get back to Kansas City.”
Things such as which quarterback the Raiders will start against the Chiefs, perhaps.
Although the Raiders were defeated Sunday, 27-21, and lost the home-field advantage, the Marinovich variable has thrown a considerable wrench into the Chiefs’ pregame plans for this week.
Better yet, Marinovich was outstanding in his professional debut, passing for 243 yards and three touchdowns.
Now, the cover-up. Jay Schroeder, the team’s starter for 33 consecutive games until Sunday, is ready to return after suffering sprained ankles.
If it is the team’s intent to go with the hot hand, Marinovich, which is expected, the Raiders are not going to tip their hand until game time.
What the Raiders can’t hide is which quarterback works with the first unit in practice, an obvious tipoff as to who will be the starter.
So, they closed practice. Pushing out-of-town writers around has never been a problem for the Raiders. Before last year’s AFC title game, a reporter for the Buffalo News was not allowed on the team’s training complex until practice had ended.
Jay Lawrence, former Raider reporter for the Orange County Register, was not allowed to watch practice after he had accepted a job with the Rocky Mountain News in Denver.
In the new Raider math, Lawrence plus Denver equaled Broncos.
The problem this week will be keeping the players quiet. Marinovich could hardly contain his joy last week when he helped leak the news that he was going to make his first professional start.
Schroeder, too, wears his heart on his sleeve. His face is an open book. This will take some expert coaching.
Shell tried to insist that delaying the quarterback decision had nothing to do with trying to confuse the Chiefs, who have not been confused in four consecutive regular-season victories over the Raiders.
“They had nothing to do with it,” Shell said. “But it’s a good thing to do, now that you’ve brought it up.”
The Raiders, for certain, have Chiefs’ Coach Marty Schottenheimer wondering.
“I have no idea who they will start next week,” he said after Sunday’s game.
“But Marinovich has to be considered, based on his performance.”
The sense, after Marinovich’s performance and the positive response from Raider teammates afterward, is that the rookie will be the starter Saturday.
But Shell said he intends to make his decision this week based in part on whether Schroeder is sound.
“I didn’t say he lost his job,” Shell said of Schroeder. “I didn’t say that. I just said I won’t make a quarterback decision until the end of the week.”
Does a tough decision await?
“It’s always a tough decision,” Shell said. “But I’m going to look at everything. I’m going to look at the whole picture, see where we are with Jay, the injuries, and I’ll make the decision based on what’s good for this football team.”
Quarterback isn’t Shell’s only concern. The Raider defense has given up 1,352 yards in three consecutive defeats.
“That’s a lot of yards,” he said.
The defensive front, the strength of the team, has been hurt by injuries to Howie Long and Bob Golic.
Long played sparingly against the Chiefs after returning from a strained knee ligament. Shell said Long had not aggravated the injury and should play more against the Chiefs.
Golic played despite a torn left calf muscle that caused him pain. Despite being slowed with an obvious limp, Golic did not want to come out of the game.
“It’s like trying to pull teeth, trying to get him off the field,” Shell said.
Shell said Golic actually played well and was not responsible for the gaping holes created by the Chiefs’ offensive line.
“It was not only him,” Shell said. “It was a combination of everyone involved.”