Raider bashing helps hype Monday matchup


For the first time in five years, the defending Super Bowl champion won't be kicking off the season on Monday night this year.

The Dallas Cowboys will be at the Pittsburgh Steelers at 4 p.m. in Fox's first doubleheader game today. For $1.58 billion, the NFL figures Fox should get a few perks.

As a consolation prize, ABC-TV gets the NFC runner-up for the past two years, the San Francisco 49ers, playing host to the Los Angeles Raiders.

That's a pretty good matchup, but former San Diego Chargers linebacker Gary Plummer, who signed with the 49ers as a free agent, obviously decided the matchup needed a little hype.

A native of Fremont, Calif., near Oakland, he grew up hating the Raiders and he unloaded on their mystique, their owner and their players last week.

"I just never liked them growing up; [George] Atkinson and [Jack] Tatum and those guys. They had cheap shots going on back then and the guys they have now have tried to mold themselves after that," Plummer said.

On Pro Bowl tackle Steve Wisniewski: "He's the dirtiest player in the NFL. Usually when you find guys who cheap shot, they're fringe guys just hanging on. He doesn't need to do what he does, yet he does it."

On owner Al Davis: "What kind of genius lets Marcus Allen go? The guy led the AFC in touchdowns after Al let him rot on the bench for years."

On the fans in Oakland who still root for Davis and the Raiders: "The thing that amazes me is that there are still Raider fans here who are Al Davis fans. And he left them high and dry without a team . . . . he dropped them like a bad habit. Me? I was glad to see them leave."

When Plummer was asked if he thought the Raiders might make him a target, he said, "What's Al Davis going to do? Put a bounty on my head? Try to hurt me during the warm-ups? If this is what it takes to get the Raiders jacked up for a Monday night game with us, then fine."

His teammates, though, figure Plummer may have irritated the Raiders.

"We've just got to be ready for a fight now," said safety Tim McDonald.

More on Al

Plummer wasn't the only player taking shots at Davis last week.

Linebacker Steve Hendrickson got a $300,000 bonus from the Raiders to leave San Diego. The Raiders cut him last week and he rejoined the Chargers.

"He runs the whole show up there," Hendrickson said of Davis. "He does all the moves, so anytime you ask a coach, they point the finger at Mr. Davis and say, 'Go ask him.' "

Hendrickson felt even his 2-year-old daughter, Courtney, may have annoyed Davis. She was with him when he met with Davis recently and she picked up one of the team's Super Bowl trophies in his office.

"Then she slams it back down on the table and even Davis went, 'Ahhh,' " Hendrickson said.

Honeymoon is over

Jeffrey Lurie's honeymoon as the new owner of the Philadelphia Eagles came to an abrupt end last week when six players had to take pay cuts.

One of them, Broderick Thompson, walked out for a day and then said, "I called my fiancee and she said she's never going to buy another hot dog in that stadium to put a penny in Jeffrey Lurie's pocket."

Lurie even called a team meeting to explain the situation and issued a public apology.

"We regret the timing and apologize for [it] . . . . I am confident we have learned how to better handle this situation in the future," Lurie said.

Salary cap wars

Mike Brown, the president of the Cincinnati Bengals, is $6 million under the cap, but he wasn't apologizing for cutting backup quarterback Jay Schroeder when he refused to take a 30 percent pay cut.

"If we save money and run our business on a business-like basis and make a profit, that's something I don't apologize for," Brown said.

He's going with somebody named Don Hollas as his backup for $250,000 rather than pay Schroeder $850,000.

Union head Gene Upshaw argues the new deal forces teams like the Bengals to increase their payrolls, but Brown is doing his best to keep his down.

All this could mean trouble for Upshaw in the future. Britt Hager, the Eagles' player rep who wasn't serving in that capacity when the deal was made, said he'd like to lead a movement to oust Upshaw.

"I don't think the union gave us the information we needed. They gave us all the positive things of the salary cap, but they really didn't go into the negatives," he said.

Upshaw and his top lieutenant, Doug Allen, were on vacation last week.

One team that makes cuts without a fuss is San Francisco. The 49ers needed money to fund a practice squad, so wide receiver Jerry Rice agreed to give up $170,000 in incentives he was likely to make. Ricky Watters and Tim McDonald restructured their contracts to save $65,000 and $25,000, but they'll probably get it in the future.

Wishful thinking

Leonard Levy, a Tampa businessman, likes to think the Tampa Bay Buccaneers could block a move in a court fight because the expansion team was awarded to the city to begin play in 1976 and then the owner was selected.

"That's where we have a leg up if they ever try to move this franchise . . . . I think we could go to court," Levy said.

Levy overlooks the fact that Baltimore was awarded a team in 1953 when the fans bought 15,000 season tickets. That didn't stop a move.

After the Tampa trustees made it obvious last week that they'll be taking bids, Tampa's only hope of keeping the team is to find somebody willing to match the best offer, and Orioles owner Peter Angelos had bid $200 million even before owner Hugh Culverhouse died.

Meanwhile, the trustees indicated they don't plan to make a decision until the end of the season. That would seemingly give the Los Angeles Rams a chance to make a decision on their future before the Tampa team is sold.

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