Irrelevant as they are on the field, the Oakland Raiders are still entertaining off it.
They made a couple of accusations last week that were too bizarre to ignore. The first was when Coach Art Shell accused an unnamed front-office Raider of sabotaging Tom Walsh, who was recently demoted as offensive coordinator.
Multiple reports in the Bay Area say the anonymous culprit is Mike Lombardi, a senior personnel executive, who reportedly had lobbied hard for Louisville Coach Bobby Petrino -- not Shell -- to get the job as head coach. Since, Lombardi's influence on Raiders decisions has been in steady decline.
In a lengthy monologue Wednesday, after replacing Walsh with John Shoop, Shell vented about the employee he views as less than loyal.
"There has been an attack on my family," Shell told reporters. "And when I say my family, I mean the Raider family. When the fox is in ... your henhouse, under the guise of football sources in the National Football League making statements and not being part of this thing, not just making statements about me but ownership, how can you accept a paycheck from somebody that's given you a job and given you an opportunity to try and excel in life?
"Then [you] turn around and call your cronies around the league and it gets back to me and I'm tired of it. It's coming back to my desk. I'm a fighter. I sit back and I watch things happen and then it gets to the point where you cross the line. That line has been crossed, and I won't sit back and allow it to happen anymore. When you root against me, you're rooting against the Raiders. When you root against Tom Walsh, you're rooting against the Raiders. And for someone to do that is unconscionable. It's detestable, and I think it's an outrage."
More finger-pointing came Friday, when the Raiders issued a news release criticizing the NFL Network for not ranking the club's 1983 team higher in its list of 20 greatest Super Bowl winners, an NFL Films special called "America's Game: The Super Bowl Champions." That team was ranked 20th.
In a statement teeming with anger, the club wrote: "The ranking was voted on by a so-called 'blue ribbon' committee consisting of writers, broadcasters and NFL personnel including head coaches and general managers. All members were asked to rank their top 10 Super Bowl championship teams. However, the members of this committee have had very little direct contact with any Super Bowls ... "
Hey, how about concentrating a little more on this year's team?
Each Tuesday, the Houston Texans bring in free agents for workouts. This week's group included sprinter Justin Gatlin, 24, who was suspended from track for eight years after testing positive for a banned substance. He won a gold medal at the 2004 Olympics by covering 100 meters in 9.85 seconds.
The amount of time he has logged on a football field in at least the last six years?
"It's my understanding that he never played football, but he can run really, really fast," said Texans Coach Gary Kubiak, who, as usual, didn't attend the workout.
Gatlin seems to be a longshot to get a callback.
Spackling the holes
Titans Coach Jeff Fisher doesn't expect Indianapolis to be so porous this time.
"We caught them a little off guard," he told reporters. "We schemed some things.... If we come back and do the same things, they'll take those away."
In the Dawghouse
Word out of Cleveland is that Coach Romeo Crennel's job is dangling by a thread, especially after last Sunday's 30-0 home loss to Cincinnati.
In another sign that it could be curtains for Crennel, who's in the second year of a five-year contract: He got a vote of approval from Browns management this week. The ax usually falls not long after one of those.
-- Sam Farmer