Raider Road Starts in Canton : Pro football: New-look team begins quest for respectability in Hall of Fame game against Green Bay.
For Al Davis, it was a day of vindication and overdue recognition. His sometimes controversial, often combative, but seldom questioned commitment to excellence was being rewarded for the ages with his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
That was a year ago.
Today, Davis is back at the Hall, seeking still more vindication.
He won’t be a part of the morning enshrinement ceremonies.
But, in the afternoon, his Raiders, coming off a losing season, hope to use the Hall of Fame game as a starting point on the road to respectability in their exhibition opener against the Green Bay Packers at Fawcett Stadium.
A 7-9 season, fraught with controversy, has left people questioning not Davis’ commitment, but his command of a team that went from excellent to sub-par in two years.
Nobody, however, can accuse Davis of being content. He was an active owner when the Dallas Cowboys’ Jerry Jones was just pumping oil.
Davis is no less active today. He begins the exhibition season with a new quarterback, a new primary running back, a new key figure in the offensive line and a new face in the secondary.
The Raiders plunged into the uncharted waters of free agency and paid $7.5 million over three years for quarterback Jeff Hostetler, a former New York Giant.
Then the Raiders snatched free-agent offensive tackle Gerald Perry out from under the Rams’ collective noses.
And having already lost unhappy Marcus Allen to free agency, the Raiders traded away running back Eric Dickerson and have handed the ball to third-year player Nick Bell, with a dash of speed thrown in by Gaston Green, obtained from the Denver Broncos in an off-season trade.
After losing another unhappy player, safety Ronnie Lott, in the free-agent market, the Raiders made defensive back Patrick Bates their top draft choice.
What does it all add up to? The Raiders should get some idea over the next five weeks. They follow today’s game with trips to San Francisco, Dallas, Indianapolis and Anaheim before the regular season.
The Packers have a much-heralded new face as well: defensive lineman Reggie White, the former Philadelphia Eagle who chose to settle down in Green Bay for $17 million over four years after traveling around the country as the most courted free agent of them all.
But before the first snap today, five men will join Davis in the Hall of Fame.
--Walter Payton, the Chicago Bear running back who stands atop the rushing list with 16,726 yards. Payton, who played 13 seasons, rushed for more than 1,000 yards in 10 of those seasons, scoring 110 touchdowns rushing.
--Dan Fouts, the San Diego Charger quarterback who passed for 43,040 yards and 254 touchdowns. He reached the 300-yard mark in passing in an NFL-record 51 games and had a record six 3,000-yard passing seasons.
--Larry Little, the Miami Dolphin guard who was a key figure in a line that enabled Miami to play in three consecutive Super Bowls in the ‘70s, the Dolphins winning two.
--Chuck Noll, the Pittsburgh Steeler coach who led the team to Super Bowl victories in 1975, 1976, 1979 and 1980, the only coach to win football’s biggest show four times.
--Bill Walsh, the San Francisco 49er coach, who led his team to three Super Bowl victories in his 10 years at the helm. Walsh won in 1982, 1985 and 1989.
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Eric Moore, facing up to a year in federal prison on steroid possession charges, was suspended by the NFL for the first four regular-season games. C9