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NFL STRIKE : Vince Evans and 55 Other New Raiders Are Taunted

September 24, 1987|RICH ROBERTS | Times Staff Writer

So it has come to this for Vince Evans: Slipping in the side entrance on a bus full of strikebreakers, as the real Raiders stood in the rain, taunting him.

"The guys were really looking kind of vicious, calling us 'scabs' and everything," Evans said. "The only one I recognized was (tight end) Todd Christensen. He had some choice words.

"I like to look at things like we're all human beings. Why demean a man for what he believes is right?"

Evans, who played quarterback for USC, the Chicago Bears and the Denver Gold of the United States Football League, was among 56 players who started practicing Wednesday. Their first game would be against the Kansas City Chiefs at the Coliseum on Sunday, Oct. 4, should the National Football League players' strike last that long.

Only 22 were in training camp with the Raiders at Oxnard because, Coach Tom Flores indicated, "I never thought it would come to this.

"A lot of teams are ahead of us because they were signing players as they cut them in training camp. We lost some pretty good players to other teams."

Among those on the field Wednesday were quarterback Marc Wilson, the only active Raider who crossed the picket line, and Rod Hill, a first-round draft choice of the Dallas Cowboys in 1982 who has also played for Buffalo and Detroit.

Some of the newcomers came to practice in their cars, but most were placed aboard a bus at a nearby hotel at 8:30 Wednesday morning and driven into the Raiders' El Segundo complex by a side street, where the pickets were less in evidence.

Player representative Sean Jones estimated that there were "close to 40" players strolling the sidewalk in front of the headquarters in a steady drizzle, most wearing sandwich-board signs. They were joined by other unions representing steamfitters, pipefitters, communications workers and others, who will look forward to the players' reciprocal support the next time they go on strike.

El Segundo Police monitored the activity, but there were no incidents, only some heavy taunting when a few non-striking players arrived or left through the line.

Finally, when the strikebreakers reboarded the bus to leave after practice, the side gate was opened, and there sat safety Vann McElroy's four-wheel-drive vehicle, blocking the exit to the street. Mike Haynes, Chris Woods, Bill Pickel and Reggie McKenzie also were present.

A police car arrived a few minutes later, and McElroy was asked to move his truck, which he did.

Evans, 32, emphasized that he isn't enjoying his position.

"What we're all here for is an opportunity to show what we can do," he said. "It's unfortunate it has to be under these circumstances, but it's a desire that every man has in his heart to fulfill that dream.

"I totally exhausted myself trying to get back into the NFL after the demise of the USFL. I probably had some second thoughts about leaving the Bears and going over to the USFL. You always look back and want to kick yourself.

"When this opportunity presented itself for me to be back in the NFL, it was kind of a tough decision because of the sensitivity of it, but I had to do what I thought was best for me at the time. I've got a wife and a little girl. I still believe I'm making the right decision.

"I hope that those guys who are picketing and standing for what they believe is right understand--and I respect them for what they stand for, because I was once part of the union. But given the circumstances I'm in right now, I wanted to go for it."

Flores said: "We've received a tremendous amount of calls from players that are totally unknown, or some that haven't played in a long time. Some of them maybe never have played.

"I think we all have a dream and this is maybe their opportunity to fulfill that fantasy of playing with a National Football League team, even though it is only for a short time. Most of them are hoping they'll be able to stand out (so that we'll) take notice and give them a chance later on, when this is over."

Wednesday's practice was non-contact, without pads. Flores plans to have two practices today.

It was noted that among the uniforms issued, cornerback Lester Hayes' No. 37 is being worn by Michael Grayson from Cal State Hayward. Hayes is on injured reserve with a sore foot and has not yet appeared on the picket lines.

Numbers not issued included Rusty Hilger's 12, Marcus Allen's 32, Haynes' 22, McElroy's 26, Christensen's 46, Howie Long's 75 and James Lofton's 80.

Twenty-nine of the striking players held their own practice at El Segundo High School.

RAIDERS' STRIKE ROSTER Quarterbacks: *Marc Wilson, BYU; Vince Evans, USC; *Scott Woolf, Mt. Union; Mark Van Allen, La Verne.

Running Backs: Craig Ellis, San Diego State; Rick Calhoun, Cal State Fullerton; Thurman Beard, Utah; Vic Stagliano, Miami; Jim Browne, Boston College; Mike Simmons, UCLA.

Wide Receivers: *Stan Blalock, Georgia; *Greg Holder, Sacramento State; Luis McDonald, New Mexico State; *Carl Aikens, Illinois; Greg Lathan, Cincinnati; *Wade Lockett, CS Fullerton.

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