It was a day of comings and goings at Raider headquarters in El Segundo.
Going out Monday were eight players who were cut, including veteran running back Vance Mueller.
Coming in was Neal Allen, agent for defensive lineman Greg Townsend, who has yet to report because of a contract dispute. Allen huddled with Raider officials late Monday, but no progress was reported toward breaking the stalemate over renegotiation of Townsend's contract.
Operating in the second year of a five-year, $6.6-million deal, Townsend, a nine-year veteran and a key member of the defensive line, has refused to report without an adjustment. Townsend signed the contract during a brief period when he switched agents.
With less than two weeks remaining before the season opener, the Raiders maintain that Townsend must honor his existing contract.
The cuts Monday were the first of several waves the Raiders will be required to make to get their roster down to 60 today and to 47 by next Tuesday.
The team is at 71, plus four exemptions, meaning 11 more names must be lopped off today.
In addition to Mueller, the Raiders cut running back Terrence Flagler, former USC linebacker Matt Gee, defensive back Leon McGlockton, linebacker Niko Noga, guard Tom Roth, quarterback Scott Wood and defensive back John Diggs.
Diggs has been involved in more moves off the field than on it. This was his second cut in as many weeks. He was removed from the roster last week when the Raiders added defensive linemen Clarence Siler and Nick Oleson.
When the Raiders turned around and cut Siler and Oleson last Friday, they brought Diggs back for the game against the Washington Redskins Saturday only to cut him again Monday.
The end of Mueller's Raider career, if indeed this is the end, comes after an unlikely five-year run. A running back from Occidental College, Mueller was drafted in the fourth round by the Raiders in 1986.
It was a big leap, going from NCAA Division III to running and blocking out of a backfield that contained the likes of Marcus Allen and Bo Jackson.
But Mueller carried on, putting up his best numbers in 1987 when he played in all 12 non-strike games, rushing for 175 yards with an average of 4.7 per carry.
The 6-foot, 225-pounder did it all--a little rushing, a little receiving, a lot of blocking and some special teams work. He returned 27 kickoffs in 1987 alone.
Mueller sat out last season with a knee injury.
"How many backs can you keep?" said Joe Scannella, offensive backs coach. "You're limited. At some point, you've got to make decisions. You've got three tailbacks (Allen, Eric Dickerson and Nick Bell) who can all play, and you've got three fullbacks (Steve Smith, Derrick Gainer and Napoleon McCallum) who can all play.
"It's really not disparaging to Vance or Flagler. They have talents."
For Mueller, this could all turn out to be academic. The Raiders could still elect to bring him back when the wheeling and dealing is done.
But for now, the spotlight has shifted to Gainer, a surprise starter Saturday against the Redskins.
Smith, who has been out with a pinched nerve in his back, seems set as the starting fullback. But the Raiders are taking a long look at Gainer, who ended his first tour of duty with the team by mutual agreement.
That was in 1989 after the Raiders made him the 205th player taken in that year's draft.
Officially, the Raiders released Gainer, but the decision was his.
"I was a rookie," he said. "I didn't know anything about the NFL. I had no one to talk to who could help me. I didn't know what I was doing. I regretfully left the Raiders. I wish I never had."
Gainer spent 1990 with the Cleveland Bowns, but was cut before the start of the '91 season.
But now he's back. Signed as a free agent in February, he has beefed up from 225 to 240 pounds to increase his value as a fullback.
If the Raiders carry five backs, Dickerson, Bell, Allen and Smith would appear to be secure. That would leave Gainer to battle the more versatile McCallum for the last spot, which still makes Gainer a longshot.
"I know a little bit more about the business now," Gainer said. "Right now, I'm just trying to come back and prove to them (the Raiders) that I am sorry I left. I want to come back if they will allow me to come back."
Four Raiders--defensive back Dan Land, linebacker Mike Jones, defensive lineman A.J. Jimerson and center Josh Taotoai--do not count as part of the roster until the final cutdown. They have been granted exemptions as members of the spring World League. To qualify for an exemption, a player must also have been on an NFL team last season or spent at least four games on a developmental squad. . . . Greg Townsend and fellow defensive lineman Scott Davis, also sitting out while demanding a contract renegotiation, are considered part of the roster. Holdout Winston Moss does not count because he remains unsigned.