Remembering Al Davis at the Coliseum - NBC Bay Area


Remembering Al Davis at the Coliseum

Raiders prepare for emotional game vs. Browns



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    Raiders owner Al Davis died last week.

    Raider Nation came together one last time to honor owner Al Davis on Sunday in Oakland.

    Coaches, players and team employees wore T-shirts with "AL'' supplanted on the Raiders shield. Former players and coaches along with rappers Ice Cube and MC Hammer were along the sideline for Sunday's game against the Cleveland Browns to pay tribute to Davis.       

    A video presentation of Davis' life began playing 20 minutes before kickoff and a moment of silence was held before former Raiders offensive lineman Henry Lawrence sang the national anthem.       

    Davis passed away last week at age 82. He turned the Raiders into one of the league's premier franchises with a "commitment to excellence,'' winning Super Bowls after the 1976, 1980 and 1983
     seasons the last one in Los Angeles, where the franchise moved in 1982 after protracted court fights before returning to the Bay Area in 1995.

    Most figured Sunday would bring a few tears during the tributes.

     The tributes were 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) on Sunday 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.''

     It will be hard to top the emotions from Houston. Davis' son, Mark, flew in that morning and hugged many of the players on the field before watching the game from a luxury box, where he had to wipe away tears at the end of the game.

    The Raiders won it when Matt Schaub was intercepted in the end zone by Michael Huff on the final play, leading Jackson to fall to his knees in tears, overtaken by the emotions. Making that final play even more unlikely was the fact that the Raiders only had 10 players on the field because safety Jerome Boyd had mistakenly run off the field before the play.

    "We only had 10 helmets on the field but it was definitely 11 men out there,'' cornerback Stanford Routt said, believing Davis had a hand in that play. ``It was definitely 11 men out there.''

    That's the kind of emotional environment the Browns can expect when they come to Oakland on Sunday looking to get back on the winning track after being blown out at home two weeks ago by Tennessee and having an early bye week last weekend.

     Coach Pat Shurmur said he made a point this week to tell his players what to expect and to try to tune it out as much as possible.

    "Everybody's well aware of what the Raider Nation is going through with the passing of Al Davis,'' Shurmur said. ``We all know how emotional it is when you lose someone that's had such a great influence on the organization. The players are aware of that, and I think what we've got to try to do is what you do in any situation when you go play on the road, you've got to try and block all that out and get to the business of playing ball.''

     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

    "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.''

    Just the way Davis would have liked.