While the New England Patriots categorically denied that any of their players were using drugs at the time of last Sunday's Super Bowl, the uproar over drug abuse in the National Football League continued unabated Thursday.
Rather than dying down, the controversy, if anything, heated up, with Al Davis, the Raiders' managing general partner, laying blame for the problem directly at the door of NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle.
In a prepared statement, Davis said: "Coach Raymond Berry (of the Patriots) made the statement that Commissioner Pete Rozelle does not have the guts to do anything about the drug problem in the NFL.
"If during the last six years Rozelle had channeled all the efforts of the entire NFL, as well as the hundreds of millions of dollars that were recklessly spent on the vendetta on the Raiders, into a constructive fight against the drug problem, we would have done a great service to our country as well as to our league.
"Pete Rozelle was asked to deal with the drug problem openly, honestly and humanely five years ago. It is ludicrous to think that Rozelle knew nothing about the Patriots' problem. Any team can commit any crime in this league as long as the team owner backs Rozelle in the Raiders' vendetta."
Davis admitted that the Raiders once had a drug problem of their own, but he said that problem had been solved.
"In the early 1980s, the Raiders had people with dependency problems, and we have virtually eliminated the problem on our team," he said. "It is a day-to-day struggle, and we regret that not all the individuals who have left the organization have been able to win the fight."
Whether the Raiders, or any other NFL team, are free of drugs is something that Eugene Klein, former owner of the San Diego Chargers would dispute.
"Any owner who says his team is clean is either naive or ignorant of what's going on around him," Klein said Thursday from his home in Palm Springs. "What's come out so far has only touched the surface.
"Players taking drugs is going on everywhere. It's just difficult to put your finger on them after you've found out about it."
Although not willing to name names, Klein suggested that some NFL owners have been slow to demand drug testing, possibly because their own teams would be hurt.
"When the last NFL contract was negotiated with the players, I was a consultant to the owners," Klein said. "Chuck Sullivan of the Patriots was the chairman of the owners' committee, and I urged him to do something about the drug problem in the NFL. The only way to control this problem is through random testing, and I told Sullivan and the others that the only way to clean up this situation is to insist on a testing agreement from the players.
"There may have been some influential club owners at the time who didn't want testing because they knew they had a big problem and they wanted to protect their teams from being exposed."
Having reopened the drug issue this week after being beaten, 46-10, last Sunday by the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XX, the Patriots Thursday attempted to downplay, or at least to clarify, the extent of their own players' involvement with drugs.
Berry had been quoted Tuesday by the Boston Globe as saying that his team had a "serious problem" with drugs. Thursday, however, the team was saying the problem is "almost negligible."
Dr. Armand Nicholi, New England's team psychiatrist and the man responsible for the drug-testing and rehabilitation programs of Patriot players, said that seven players, not 12 as earlier believed, had been tested during the last year.
Of those seven, two tested positively for cocaine and marijuana, and five tested positively for marijuana. Of the latter five, tests showed that two had been one-time users of the drug.
"Our testing showed that all seven players had been drug free for several weeks (before the Super Bowl), with some drug free for the entire season," Nicholi said.
"Our tests indicate that each individual tested was absolutely free of any drug during the game played in the Super Bowl.
"In light of reliable research findings that 30% of 18- to 25-year-olds in our society have used cocaine and over 60% have used marijuana, the results of our testing indicate that our problem is, indeed, almost negligible."
Not so negligible is the controversy over the revelation of the names of the Patriot players involved, although nowhere in the statement that Nicholi released Thursday did any names appear.
On Wednesday, however, the Globe had identified six players--wide receivers Irving Fryar and Stephen Starring, defensive backs Raymond Clayborn and Roland James, defensive end Keith Sims and running back Tony Collins--as admitting to Berry that they had used drugs. The Globe said Patriot General Manager Pat Sullivan had not disputed the names.
Clayborn, in Honolulu for the Pro Bowl, told the Boston Herald on Thursday that he will demand a trade from the Patriots.