Raiders fans demonstrate honesty is the best policy

THE BALTIMORE SUN

On a day when football games don't seem all that important, let's start with an upbeat off-the-field story.

It involves Los Angeles Raiders linebacker Riki Ellison, who found himself in a monster traffic jam going to last Sunday's game at the Los Angeles Coliseum against the Cincinnati Bengals. The sellout crowd of 92,045 -- the Raiders often draw half that many -- caused gridlock near the stadium.

Ellison feared he wasn't going to make the game on time, so he jumped out of his 944 Porsche about a half-mile from the stadium, walked up to a van and asked if one of the guys in it would park his car in the players' lot near the stadium.

When one of them agreed, he simply handed over his keys.

He got to the stadium on time, although he had to ice his ailing knees before the game because they were aggravated by the half-mile walk.

When he told his teammates what he'd done, they were astonished. They told him the car would be in Tijuana by halftime.

Ellison said he didn't care if he lost the Porsche. "You can always replace a car. You can't replace a game. It was a little bit more important," he said.

But when Ellison came out of the locker room, there was the fan waiting with his keys.

"He said he was really happy to drive my car. I guess he'd never driven a Porsche before," Ellison said.

This one could make Ripley's "Believe It or Not."

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Any question that today's games might be postponed was answered early Friday afternoon when the three television networks switched to soap operas and left CNN to cover the Persian Gulf War exclusively.

Once back, there was no doubt they'll televise the games, although there's always a chance that they'll switch away from the games if there are new developments in the war.

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The coaching derby: Mike White of the Los Angeles Raiders and Bill Belichick of the New York Giants are two assistant coaches with more than a Super Bowl berth on the line today.

They could have jobs as head coaches on the line.

Now that the Cleveland Browns struck out in their attempt to lure Bobby Ross from Georgia Tech, they're looking at White and Belichick, along with Rusty Tillman of the Seattle Seahawks.

White is considered the favorite because he's been a head coach at Cal and Illinois, and Cleveland owner Art Modell is interested in a man with head-coaching experience.

But if either White or Belichick makes the Super Bowl -- their teams are underdogs -- he could get a boost.

White developed erratic Jay Schroeder this season, and Belichick is the Giants' defensive coordinator.

Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers still are courting NBC announcer Bill Walsh.

Walsh will work his last game of the season today when the Buffalo Bills play the Raiders, so the Bucs may find out next week if he is interested.

Yesterday, Walsh, saying he expects to continue his televison career, recommended White for the vacant Tampa Bay job, according to the Tampa Tribune.

Robert Fraley, Giants coach Bill Parcells' agent, keeps floating his name for the Tampa Bay job, but he's got a year left on his contract, and the Giants aren't going to release him. It's probably a negotiating ploy on Fraley's part to get a lucrative new contract for his client.

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More coaching derby: The assistant coaches merry-go-round is continuing.

Rams coach John Robinson, who fired Fritz Shurmur as his defensive coordinator, hired Jeff Fisher from the Philadelphia Eagles to install Buddy Ryan's 46 defense, although the Rams don't seem to have the defensive linemen to play a 4-3.

Meanwhile, Minnesota Vikings coach Jerry Burns, who fired defensive coordinator Floyd Peters, is trying to lure Ryan, who said he wants a head coaching job, but may be resigned to the fact that he's not going to get one this year. By going to Minnesota, he could position himself to eventually replace Burns.

Bud Carson, fired as Cleveland's head coach, could replace Fisher in Philadelphia. He worked with new coach Rich Kotite when they were with the New York Jets under Joe Walton.

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More Ryan: Norman Braman, owner of the Eagles, got off a parting shot at Ryan after firing him.

Brown quickly denied he lost $30,000, saying it was closer to $3,000 and that the players don't bother to pay each other.

Ryan, meanwhile, said: "I just consider the source of those stories. They quote front-office sources. Those front-office sources can kiss my butt."

Many fans still support Ryan. In his last public appearance on his radio show, they chanted "Buddy, Buddy, Buddy" and even tied up traffic outside the restaurant where the show was conducted.

Ryan said, "Hell, I could have been elected mayor in this city, but I can't coach its football team."

G; Even when he departs, Ryan is engulfed in controversy.

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After Stacy Toran of the Los Angeles Raiders was killed in a drunken-driving accident in August 1989, Sean Jones, a former Raider now with the Houston Oilers, contributed $5,000 to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).

He said NFL players now are more likely to have a designated driver when they go out on the town.

"These things aren't forgotten," Jones said.

But there was another recent reminder. Tests showed that rookie Fred Washington of the Chicago Bears was drunk when he drove his car into a tree Dec. 21. He and a female companion, also found by the tests to be drunk, were killed in the accident.

The NFL has done a good job ofcracking down on the use of illegal drugs in the league, but hasn't had as much success pointing out the danger of legal drugs to the players.

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Baltimore's NFL legacy hasn't been forgotten.

Pro Football Weekly compiled a list of the 10 best playoff games of all time, and the Tom Matte wristband game (the Colts' 13-10 loss to the Green Bay Packers in 1965) ranked sixth on the list. The Colts' 37-31, double-overtime loss to the Oakland Raiders in 1977 rated ninth.

The San Diego Chargers' 41-38, double-overtime victory over the Miami Dolphins after the 1981 season ranked first.

Championship games weren't included, so the Colts' 1958 title game against the New York Giants and Super Bowl III in 1969, in which the Colts were upset by the New York Jets, 16-7, weren't eligible.

It was no surprise that no Indianapolis games made the list. The Colts have been in just one playoff game since they moved there in 1984.

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When the Raiders are involved in a playoff game, you can expect a high level of paranoia.

The Raiders ejected a Buffalo writer from their premises (they've done this before playoff games in the past), and, in Buffalo, the Bills added security guards and were making sure that trash cans were emptied promptly and that all blackboards were erased.

Bills linebacker Ray Bentley said, "The Raiders have always been accused of clandestine activities, so you have to take precautions."

Bentley was even worried about reporters.

"You might have reporters who Al [Davis] has in his pocket who could be rather intrusive in their questioning and try to get any information they can to help the Raiders," he said.

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