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NFL STRIKEBREAKER GAMES: WEEK 1 : Only the Names Have Been Changed : Despite Strike, the Show Goes On as Non-Union Raiders Take On Chiefs Today

October 04, 1987|MARK HEISLER | Times Staff Writer

And now for the latest in mondo bizarro 1987 strike developments, the game, pitting the Raider replacements (approved league designation), or Masqueraiders (unofficial and unapproved) against their Kansas City Chief counterparts in an actual, counts-in-the-standings, you-pay-to-get-in National Football League encounter today at the Coliseum.

The Raiders will have Vince Evans and lots of players you probably won't recognize and may not have much time to learn about. either.

The Chiefs? They make the Raiders look as if they've all got stars on Hollywood Boulevard. "None of them are household names," Raider Coach Tom Flores said of his foes.

The Chiefs' quarterback is former Bruin Matt Stevens. He was in camp with them briefly as a free agent last summer, brought in by his old offensive coordinator, Homer Smith.

Which cut claimed Stevens? The last one? Next-to-last?

"It was actually the third-to-last," Stevens said from Kansas City.

That must have been early, indeed, since there were only two cuts. Participation in this game, however, is based on just two conditions: (1) some quasi-standing as an NFL player, and (2) a willingness to cross the union picket line. That makes it a thorny problem all around.

"I just had to look at it as an opportunity for Matt Stevens," said Matt Stevens. "You know, I'm not a player with all the tangibles. I don't have the size--I'm 6-foot--or the weight. It's hard to get an opportunity to play in camp. It was very difficult for me in camp."

Has it crossed his mind that he and the others may just be pawns?

"That could be true, but like I said, it's an opportunity," he said. "Before, I didn't have anything. I was ready to give up on football. I know the odds on me playing in the NFL aren't that good, but when you're on the bottom, you've got to scratch your way to the top."

Are the coaches overjoyed about this thing, or what?

"It's not something of, obviously, the coaches' doing," Flores said.

Said Frank Gansz, a former Navy pilot and the Chiefs' new coach: "There's no question, it's a dilemma for me because of the very strong feelings I have about our football team and the amount of work we put into the season. We're going to go along with the mission. There are many missions you have to do in life that you're not necessarily fond of and that's not the way maybe you'd have liked to have it happen, but you just press on and that's exactly what we're doing."

Meet your Raiders-for-the-moment.

Counting Friday's crossings, they have eight drafted players, three who were taken above the fifth round: Cowboy No. 1 Rod Hill, a cornerback who was subsequently waived in Dallas, Buffalo and Detroit; Bear No. 3 David Williams, subsequently cut in Chicago and Tampa, and Raider No. 2, Bruce Wilkerson.

The offensive skill positions:

Quarterback--Vince Evans, 6 feet 2 inches and 200 pounds, ex-Trojan, Chicago Bear, Chicago Blitz, Denver Gold, out of football since spring of '85. Still a fine athlete at 32 and since the games are expected to be on the wild side, his scrambling ability may really mean something. Had a 6.5-yard rushing average for the Bears in '83, but only a 48.7% completion average in the NFL.

Development to watch--Will Marc Wilson play? Flores said Friday that Wilson "probably will hold some" for kicks.

Wilson had said he was reporting because he was afraid he might be held in breach of contract and that he hoped to sit these games out. His striking teammates said they'd like it if he sat out, too. At first they accepted the explanation that his guarantee meant he had to report, but they also had the union check his contract. When they were told there was no language pertaining to a strike, eyebrows were raised.

Halfback--Craig Ellis, 5-11, 190, from San Diego State, all-purpose yardage leader in the Canadian Football League in 1984, played nine games for the Dolphins last season and had 3 carries for 6 yards.

Fullback--Jim Browne, 6-1, 215. Luring Jim Browne out of retirement isn't the same as luring Jim Brown out, but Browne did start ahead of Steve Strachan, who was a year ahead of him at Boston College.

The Raiders would have preferred a backfield of halfback Zeph Lee and fullback Chris McLemore, two young players who were cut in camp, but they didn't sign anyone to those $1,000 contracts and lost both, Lee to Denver, McLemore to the Colts.

Wide receiver--David Williams, 6-4, 190, from Los Angeles' Serra High, Harbor College and Illinois, where he was a Sporting News two-time All-American. Caught 101 and 85 passes in his last two college seasons and had a career total of 245, No. 2 all-time in the NCAA.

Of course, the size of the crowd will be as important a development as any other, so there is the matter of the competing promotions.

The Raiders are offering gifts, and a chance to win trips to the Super Bowl and the Pro Bowl.

The striking Raiders and Rams will picket, asking fans not to enter.

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