PHOENIX — The Raiders and Rams are having an argument over whose owner is responsible for their inability to get together for an exhibition game.
A spokesman for the Raiders' Al Davis said the other day: "We can't get the Rams to play us."
But here Wednesday, Georgia Frontiere, the Rams' owner, said: "That isn't correct. We've been trying for some time to arrange a preseason game with the Raiders."
Davis, also here for the National Football League's annual meeting, declined comment. The people in his organization maintain, however, that Ram policy was formed during the Raiders' first season in Los Angeles, when the Rams wouldn't help a rival team take over the town.
Frontiere disagreed. "This isn't true, either," she said. "We didn't play them that first season because we already had our four preseason commitments. We've been ready since then. We'll play (Davis') team anytime."
Rams vs. Raiders would sell out the Rose Bowl, a neutral site, Frontiere contends, leaving each team free to play three other exhibitions at home (the NFL limit) each summer.
The Rams seem to be viewing the Raiders with more respect. For example, their offense is being retooled this year to look more like the Raider offense.
Coach John Robinson is planning to combine Dickerson and Barry Redden in the backfield much of the time and throw passes to them the way the Raiders throw to Marcus Allen and Kenny King.
The impetus for this strategy is coming partly from one of Robinson's new assistants, Lew Erber, who coached Raider receivers and backs for six years.
Robinson said that although the Rams may be moving in new directions, they haven't given up the one-back formation.
"A two-back set takes away from your ability to run the ball," he said.
And he wants to keep running it with Dickerson.
But he also wants more pass offense than the Rams had last season.
In being influenced by the Raiders, the Rams aren't unique. Most California pro teams have for many years relied heavily on his organization, Raider Coach Tom Flores said.
"You'd think Al Davis was in charge of pro football for the state," Flores remarked.
--Rams: Robinson was a Raider assistant when he left in 1976 to take over USC. He was succeeded in Oakland by Erber.
--49ers. Bill Walsh began his pro football career as a Raider assistant in 1966.
--Raiders. Flores was a Raider quarterback under Coach Davis in 1963. Thus, Davis products have won four of the last six Super Bowls--Walsh two, Flores two.
--Invaders. The USFL team in Oakland is coached by former Raider assistant Charlie Sumner, whose pass offense coach is former Raider Fred Biletnikoff.
The NFL's top draft pick this year already has been signed. He is defensive end Bruce Smith of Virginia Tech, who has begun working with the Buffalo Bills several months before his first pro training camp.
In the opinion of Buffalo Coach Kay Stephenson, the early signing will start a trend.
"It isn't sound to wait until the (April) draft if your mind is made up," Stephenson said. "First-year players have so much to learn that an early start is essential if you can arrange it."
Only three penalties were called in the Super Bowl this year, continuing a tradition of letting the players play the game on championship day.
Is this a good idea?
"I think so," San Francisco Coach Bill Walsh said. " It assures that the talent of the players will be the difference in the game."
In the regular season, by contrast, the officiating is sometimes the difference.
"A foul must be flagrant or telling to be called in the Super Bowl," Walsh said. "The infraction that could be questioned isn't called."
NFL Notes The league tabled the helmet-radio idea indefinitely when only about half the owners voted for it. . . . Of the six rules changes that passed, the most important strengthens the right of either a receiver or defensive man to go for a thrown ball--regardless of the extent of contact--provided he is "intent on the ball."