Raiders prepare for emotional game
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) – There figure to be a few tears, a bunch of former players on hand and plenty of memories shared by everyone when the Oakland Raiders play their first home game since the death of longtime owner Al Davis.
The tributes will be nice although the Raiders know there’s really only one thing their demanding owner would have wanted to make the day complete.
“I expect the atmosphere to be electric,” quarterback Jason Campbell said. “That’s the way Mr. Davis would want it. The only thing he would always tell us to do, ‘I don’t care about anything else. I want you to win.’ That’s what he’d always say. Win. I think a great tribute to him is continue winning, and that’s the only way you can honor him.”
The Raiders (3-2) were able to do that last Sunday, holding on to beat Houston 25-20 a day after Davis died at age 82. Now they prepare to take on the Cleveland Browns (2-2) today in front of an expected sellout crowd and as part of a day of celebration of Davis’ life.
It figures to be an emotional day at the Coliseum as perhaps no owner has been as linked to his team as Davis. But don’t expect any pregame “Win one for Al” speeches from coach Hue Jackson.
“Coach wouldn’t want it any other way,” Jackson said of Davis. “He wants this football team to play football. That’s my message to these guys. We’ve done our grieving. We’ve paid the respects the right way and we’ll continue to do so. But the most important thing we got to do is, play a Cleveland Browns team that is coming here to beat us.”
The Raiders are planning a pregame moment of silence, a halftime celebration of Davis’ life and various other tributes throughout the game to a man who joined the organization as coach in 1963 and later became general manager, owner and face of the Raiders for nearly a half-century.
Davis won three Super Bowls during his time with the Raiders and hand-picked most of the players on the current roster. While many of the rookies never got a chance to meet Davis during their brief time in Oakland, the veterans knew and mostly adored Davis.
“He knew everything about you,” defensive tackle Tommy Kelly said. “He knew about your family, your brothers, your sisters. Mr. D, he always made you feel like you weren’t just a piece of meat. He got to know you. That made it where anything he asked of you, you had no problem doing it.”
Kelly was signed by the Raiders as an undrafted free agent in 2004 and then got a seven-year deal worth up to $50.5 million in 2008 that was criticized at the time. Kelly has been a stalwart on defense the last few years and came up big in the win against the Texans.
So did some of the other players that Davis was criticized for signing, drafting or overpaying through the years, including Huff, kicker Sebastian Janikowski, receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey and defensive tackle Richard Seymour.
The last team Davis assembled is his best in recent years, with the big-play speedsters on offense he always craved and a physical defensive line. After eight straight seasons without a winning record, the Raiders appear ready to content in the AFC West this year.
“They really look like a different team,” said Cleveland linebacker Scott Fujita, who last faced Oakland in 2008 in a 34-3 win with New Orleans. “Obviously, physically they are always one of the most gifted teams in the league you talk about talent, big, fast, look really good getting off the bus. But now they are playing fantastic.”