Raiders

Documentary delves into Al Davis, Marcus Allen feud

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Documentary delves into Al Davis, Marcus Allen feud

ALAMEDA -- From the moment Marcus Allen returned to the Raiders in September to light the Al Davis memorial flame, I wondered if this more recent vintage of Raider fan realized just how big of a deal it was at the time.

After all, the Allen-Davis feud of the late 1980's and early 1990s was the dominant storyline as the team called Los Angeles home. The rookie of the year, Super Bowl MVP and NFL MVP had been chained to the bench and reduced to a blocking fullback in Davis' doghouse. The eventual comeback player of the year, with Kansas City in 1993, was reduced to playing bit roles behind the likes of Bo Jackson, Greg Bell, Roger Craig and Eric Dickerson in his last seasons with the Raiders.

And while tonight's NFL Network documentary "Marcus Allen: A Football Life" covers the entirety of his football playing career, from Lincoln High School in San Diego to winning the Heisman Trophy in 1981 at USC to being the Raiders' first-round draft choice in 1982, to his finishing up in Kansas City, what is most intriguing to Raiders fans is the part that delves into the feud.

Former assistant Terry Robiskie spoke of inserting Allen into a 1989 game the Raiders trailed the Cardinals by five points and at the four-yard line late. Robiskie knew playing Allen was against Davis' wishes.

"Not to get yelled at and screamed at and fussed at, I took my headset off," Robiskie said with a laugh.

"I got a little slap on the face, saying, 'Hey, we wasn't supposed to do that. I thought we wasn't going to put him him.' But good thing we did; we won the game…those guys' battles was bigger than us."

[REWIND: Marcus Allen to light Al Davis flame]

Allen remembered the aftermath.

"Going back to the locker room...Al gave me a dirty look, which was the strangest thing in the world because you figure you want to win the game, regardless of who does it," Allen said. "But it was just another awkward situation. The animosity was pretty thick around there."

Allen also spoke of the Raiders continually bringing in those other players to take time from him.

"I don't think there's been any great running back in the league that has ever had to share the position with that many great running backs," Allen said.

"There was a time that I came into camp fourth string. I'm in the Hall of Fame, by the way, but I came into camp fourth string, I just want you to know that."

Said Robiskie: "How did he end up falling from one to fourth (on the depth chart)? Now that came from the top."

The documentary, on the heels of last week's ESPN 30-for-30 production on Bo Jackson, is clean and seamless. Allen, though, never addresses exactly why he and Davis were at loggerheads.

"(Al) felt at some point that Marcus was getting bigger than the Raiders and he had a hard time with that because it was always about the Raiders," former Raiders executive Ron Wolf said. "Whatever the split was, that caused that."

Of course, the most scandalous theory out there, and given renewed life by Murray Olderman's new book, "Just Win, Baby, The Al Davis Story," is that Davis disapproved of Allen's relationship with O.J. Simpson and his inner circle.

"I never quite understood what made things go bad," Allen said. "To me the whole thing was a waste of great talent and energy. If you don't like me, let me go. And I never understood that. Let me go play football someplace else. Now, if you love power, I can understand why you keep me there.

"I think of what could have been, the perfect marriage in Los Angeles with the Raiders. It just didn't turn out to be. And it was, it was a shame."

Others interviewed in the documentary include Allen's parents, Harold and Gwendolyn, Marty Schottenheimer, Ronnie Lott, John Robinson, Howie Long, Al Michaels, Jim Plunkett and Matt Millen.

"I spent 25 seasons with the Raiders," Wolf said. "Of all the players that ever came through during the time that I was there, somebody has to be No. 1. Marcus Allen was No. 1. He's the best player during my time with the Raiders that I've ever seen."

The story, like the documentary, played out with Allen finishing with the Chiefs. In fact, it was with the Chiefs that Allen went 9-1 against the Raiders and became the first player in NFL history with 10,000 rushing yards and 5,000 receiving yards.

"I never thought about getting back (at Davis and the Raiders)," Allen claimed. "Never. Never once, You've got to understand, I loved the guys that I played with and I was always conflicted in that regard.

"I don't hate the Raiders. I don't hate the helmet. I don't hate the colors. I don't hate anybody. I didn't even hate Al. We had a disagreement and life is too short to dwell on it, and you move on."

The documentary premiers at 5 p.m. PT on NFL Network.

Irvin, Mack given a day off from Raiders practice

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USATSI

Irvin, Mack given a day off from Raiders practice

ALAMEDA – Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin were out at Raiders practice Wednesday for the stretching period. Both edge rushers left one-at-a-time during the individual period, which was open to the press, headed into the main building and did not return.

There was no perceived reaction, certainly no surprise, from the coaching staff or players on the field. Irvin and new defensive coordinator John Pagano were seen joking around on the field before practice began in earnest. 

Both Irvin and Mack were given a practice off. A Raiders official called it a day off/rest-type day that was not injury related. The Silver and Black typically practice in pads or shells on Wednesday, but were in jerseys and sweats in the interest of recovery.

This day off's timing did raise an eyebrow.

Wednesday marked the first practice Irvin has missed since training camp. Mack hasn’t missed one in months.

Mack and Irvin’s downtime also came a day after beloved defensive coordinator Ken Norton’s firing.

Several defensive players were upset about Norton's firing, but Mack and Irvin especially were among those loyal to Norton. Mack and Norton developed a bond after the coach was named defensive coordinator in 2015. Norton and Irvin go way back to their days together in Seattle. Irvin credits Norton for helping him get on the right path and stay there.

Neither player was happy Norton got the axe. Irvin made his displeasure clear, tweeting “BULLS***” shortly after news of Norton’s demise broke. Mack told ESPN “I like to keep my thoughts private.” Defensive stars declined comment Wednesday or didn't appear in the locker room when the media was present. 

It isn’t immediately clear if the non-injury related day off was related to Norton’s dismissal. Head coach Jack Del Rio won’t speak to the media again until Friday. New defensive coordinator John Pagano is scheduled to speak Thursday afternoon.

Del Rio addressed the media before Wednesday’s practice, and was asked how he’ll handle players unhappy with the in-season shake-up.

“I don’t try and 'handle' them,” Del Rio said. “I think the biggest thing is to understand the relationship, respect that, give him a little space and then at the end of the day, we’re going to get on with our work. But, I’m human. It wasn’t easy for me either.”

Del Rio: 'Nobody should feel comfortable,' following Norton firing

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Del Rio: 'Nobody should feel comfortable,' following Norton firing

ALAMEDA – Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio put out a statement Tuesday explaining why he fired defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr.

He went into greater detail Wednesday afternoon, his first time facing the media since a change was made

Specifics will be discussed further down this story. We don’t, however, want to bury the lede.

Del Rio’s main message wasn’t about Norton. It applied to all in Silver and Black. This season has not met lofty expectations. That is unacceptable.

“I know one thing,” Del Rio said. “Nobody should feel comfortable, because what I’ve been watching is not good enough.”

Del Rio didn’t absolve himself from blame. Norton got fired, but everyone has played a part in this disappointing 4-6 record.

“It’s always shared,” Del Rio said. “A change was made, obviously. We all share in it, all of us, starting with me. It’s coaches and players. It’s a team game, and we’re all in it together. And nobody is coming to help us.”

The Raiders must look inward to start a prolonged winning streak they’ve shown little evidence they can create.

The seat will be warm under players and coaches alike, even if only one change was made. Expect further shakeup on the coaching staff after the season, if vast improvements don’t come down the stretch, possibly with several position coaches being shown the door. More than a few higher profile players could be cut or allowed to leave, especially on defense.

While Del Rio has taken more heat the past month than at any other time in his Raiders tenure, expect him to be around a longer term. He was given a contract extension in February, and has significant capitol built after changing the culture in Oakland and re-teaching this team how to win. One bad year, even if this season continues heading downhill, shouldn’t erase that.

Del Rio was looking to shake things up, and Norton was the obvious move. Experienced play caller John Pagano was on staff – he was Chargers defensive coordinator from 2012-2016 – and firing the popular Pagano’s style could create some new waves and looks that any offensive Norton would make an impact in the locker room and prove this story’s opening quote, that no one should feel comfortable.

Del Rio hopes firing Norton will be a shock to the defense’s system.

“I really felt like I needed to shake things up,” Del Rio said. “We couldn’t continue doing what we’ve been doing to this point. So I made the call. The whole idea is to change what we’re doing and make sure…what I’m looking for at the end of the day is for us to play fast on defense. We weren’t playing fast enough. We weren’t playing confident enough.”