Warren Wells documentary illustrates Raiders star WR nobody knew about

Warren Wells documentary illustrates Raiders star WR nobody knew about

Warren Wells got busted for violating terms of his probation. That meant big trouble for the all-star Raiders receiver, the most prolific deep threat in professional football history and possibly the best player most people have never heard of.

He got stabbed at a bar in Beaumont, Texas, where he was being recognized among a large number of professional football players from his hometown after the NFL 1970 season.

Wells wasn’t viewed as the victim there. He was in an establishment that primarily served alcohol, and therefore violated probation resulting from a no contest plea to aggravated assault in 1969.

It didn’t matter that he was there on a Sunday, when serving booze was prohibited. The incident put him in front of Oakland-based Superior Court judge Leonard Dieden, and changed his life forever.

Few know exactly what happened to this awesome talent before or after that pivot point when he went off the rails and never truly recovered.

Ted Griggs provides the answers in his documentary, “Split End: The Curious Case of Warren Wells.” The president of programming for NBC Sports regional networks, a Hayward native who formerly ran NBC Sports Bay Area spent roughly four years on this passion project, which premieres Saturday at 7 p.m. on NBC Bay Area.

Griggs also joined the Raiders Insider Podcast to discuss the making of the documentary and provide further insight into a fascinating story without a happy ending.

“He did make mistakes,” Griggs said, “but I think he paid for them more than most people would.”

Dieden ordered Wells enter Synanon, a controversial organization that sold itself as a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center but was more like a cult operating without government oversight.

He was also, inexplicably, forced to sell his Cadillac.

Wells had his troubles before that decision, but he was never the same after spending six months at a Synanon facility.

“That’s where Warren was sent,” Griggs said. “I don’t think he was in good condition when he got there, and was in worse condition when he left.”

Wells wasn’t the same person or the same player. He tried and failed to make the Raiders roster in 1972, and never played professional football again.

“There are a number of things that all worked together,” Griggs said. “Warren did have an alcohol problem. I do think he went into Synanon with pre-existing psychological issues, but I think they were exacerbated and made worse by that experience. I think the worst thing for him, was to be out of football and not have that grounding.

“… (Former Raiders tight end) Raymond Chester said he was like Picasso, and I think that was really (apt) because he could do things normally, but Warren was transcendent when he broke the rules on a football field. To take the paintbrush away from Picasso is the greatest punishment of all. To take football away from Warren was the most debilitating thing you could do to him.”

NFL free agency: Raiders sign QB Mike Glennon to back up Derek Carr


NFL free agency: Raiders sign QB Mike Glennon to back up Derek Carr

The Raiders wanted an experienced backup quarterback behind Derek Carr, and got one Friday by signing Mike Glennon.

Now they hope he never plays. It’s still a vital role in meeting rooms and on-the-field, should an emergency arise on game day. Young bucks can get caught in the headlights. Veterans won’t be as good as the starter, but can generally function better being inserted into a game without many practice reps.

He has hopped into action during five seasons and has 22 starts, meaning he can handle short-relief or a stretch as the starter.

That calms some fan's nerves after the Raiders released AJ McCarron, who has already signed with the Houston Texans, leaving Nathan Peterman as the only non-Carr quarterback on the roster.

Glennon steps into the No. 2 slot having completed 60.9 percent of his passes for 5,107 yards and 35 touchdowns with 20 interceptions over five seasons.

Peterman is still with the Raiders on a futures contract, and is the No. 3 guy at the moment.

Many will look at the signing and wonder if it impacts the possibility of drafting a quarterback next month. It’s hard to rule anything out, but the disciplined choice would be to address the pass rush early and often in the 2019 NFL Draft, though a quarterback could get taken later in the selection process.

But…having Glennon on the roster won’t prohibit the Raiders from taking Kyler Murray or Dwayne Haskins. Would the Raiders eliminate the prospect of taking Quinnen Williams because interior pass rushers P.J. Hall and Maurice Hurst were drafted last year? Absolutely not.

A edge rusher is the team’s most pressing need and must be addressed with quality and quantity before the season starts.

The Raiders don’t have to take a quarterback now in the draft, and adding Glennon takes the pressure off the demand to get another one down the line. Glennon should be viewed as a reliable backup who can step into service if Carr isn’t available.

Curtis Riley signs with Raiders to boost short-handed secondary

Curtis Riley signs with Raiders to boost short-handed secondary

The Raiders continued fleshing out their secondary on Friday agreeing on terms of a contract with safety Curtis Riley, the team announced Friday. The former New York Giant visited the team’s Alameda facility on Thursday and left without a deal, but he ended up taking the Raiders offer despite interest from other teams.

Riley hinted at a pact on Twitter on Friday, saying he was coming to the Bay Area. He’ll exchange coasts after starting all 16 games at free safety with last year’s Giants. He had 75 tackles, four interceptions and five pass breakups for that squad.

He’ll have an opportunity to play significant snaps in the Raiders secondary. High-priced free-agent signing Lamarcus Joyner is also a free safety, but is expected to play slot cornerback regularly in 2019, likely shuttling back and forth between positions.

Riley could step in as the free safety in sub packages that defenses spend significant time in nowadays. Erik Harris will compete for that role opposite strong safety Karl Joseph.

The Raiders have options in the secondary now, with the aforementioned safeties and depth at cornerback. Gareon Conley’s a virtual lock to start at one outside cornerback spot. Daryl Worley’s expected to return on a second-round free-agent tender, through Thursday’s signing Nevin Lawson will compete for time there as well. Last year’s fourth-round pick Nick Nelson will have to fight for time with this new defensive back depth chart.

The Raiders could well draft another defensive back as well, especially if a good one slips and becomes a great value pick.

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News of Riley’s agreement should excite quarterback Derek Carr. Riley’s a fellow Fresno State alum. and was teammates with Carr in 2013.

The Raiders also had interest in George Iloka, who played with defensive coordinator Paul Guenther in Cincinnati. Iloka visited the Raiders complex Thursday, but left without a deal and scheduled other visits.