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NFL PLAYERS STRIKE: DAY 4 : Missing Raider Shows Up in an Unusual Place

September 26, 1987|MARK HEISLER | Times Staff Writer

Another picket line went up at Raider headquarters Friday, although it had nothing to do with the pro football strike. It was a one-man vigil, consisting of the missing Raider cornerback, Brad Cochran, who staked out Al Davis' parking spot.

The Raiders claim that Cochran, their second pick in the '86 draft, refused to practice in camp and went AWOL, breaching his contract. Cochran says he had a continuing back problem, has a doctor's letter to prove it and was sent home by Raider official George Karras, acting on Davis' orders.

"There's a lot of bad faith going on, a lot of lies, and I'm getting tired of it," Cochran said.

"I flew out here on my own (from his Michigan home) to talk to Al and George Karras to clear the air. I've left messages for Al but I was told he won't be able to get with me this week. Maybe next week. So I'm waiting for him. He'll either talk to me or tell me to take a hike. Either way, I've got nothing to lose."

Davis wasn't available for comment. Karras was but would not comment.

Cochran, from Michigan, was drafted in the third round in 1986, but like the No. 1 pick in the same draft, Bob Buczkowski, missed his rookie season with a back injury. Also like Buczkowski, Cochran underwent surgery by Dr. Arthur White in San Francisco.

Unlike Buczkowski, however, when this year's camp began, Cochran didn't think he was ready.

"I talked to Al, and he sent me back up to see Dr. White," Cochran said. "Dr. White told me it wasn't a good idea right now if I played or practiced.

"I went to camp and talked to George Karras. Al Davis wasn't there at the time. I told him what the doctor had said. The doctor sent them a letter.

"George got back to me and told me what Davis had said. He said, 'If Brad's not going to practice, send him home, just get him out of camp.' I went home with their blessing.

"When I got home, they sent me a letter saying, 'You're in breach of your contract.'

"I made about 15 phone calls, trying to talk to Al Davis. I talked to George Karras. I left my home number, my address. Then I started to get clippings saying they didn't know where I was, which wasn't true."

Indeed, Cochran was seen in Oxnard before camp opened, and Raider Coach Tom Flores did say throughout camp that the team had received no notification from Cochran. Flores continued to say he didn't know where he was, even after a reporter had reached Cochran in Michigan.

"George Karras strung me along," Cochran said. "He said, 'You said you're not going to play.' (Cochran's agent told a reporter that he was considering retirement.) I did have questions about it. . . . All I wanted was some time to rehab and think about things because I had some pretty serious surgery on my back."

Does Cochran think he got a bad deal?

"Oh yeah," he said. "I deferred my entire signing bonus ($155,000) until next year. I think because of my contract, that's the reason this is all coming about."

Cochran pulled documents from an athletic bag and showed them to reporters: a copy of the mailgram from Karras asserting the Raider claim that he had refused to practice and breached his contract; a letter from Dr. White dated July 22, the day before camp opened, saying, "I cannot release (Cochran) to play. . . . Direct contact in training is not recommended. . . . It seems unlikely that he will participate this season with your team."

In case the parking lot meeting failed to convince Davis, Cochran said he was planning to file a grievance.

Raider Notes The Raiders are working Marc Wilson as a spare quarterback, letting Vince Evans and Scott Woolf run the offense, suggesting that they may, indeed, honor Wilson's request not to play in any strikebreakers' games. . . . The striking players practiced Friday morning and will take the weekend off.

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