Raider cornerback Lester Hayes walked--limped?--back into camp at El Segundo Wednesday, but said he still can't play because of an "overkill" of painkillers received eight weeks earlier.
"Play?" Hayes said. "I can't run. I can't burst. How can I play? Impossible."
Dr. Robert Rosenfeld of the Raider medical staff disagreed. Rosenfeld is an orthopedic specialist who has treated Raider players for more than 20 years.
"He's pulling something," Rosenfeld said. "What he's trying to do is stay on injured reserve. That's the only way he can collect (his salary)."
Hayes indicated last week that he would report this week, regardless of the strike situation. He arrived at the Raider complex before Wednesday's 10 a.m. deadline for National Football League players to return and be eligible for games and paychecks this week.
Twenty players were still picketing out front, but Hayes slipped in quietly through a side entrance. No other players followed Wednesday, despite rumors of imminent mass defection. Defensive linemen Howie Long and Bill Pickel returned the previous day.
Hayes' salary is $700,000. He was put on injured reserve before the season started but has lost $87,500--that's a lot of "dead Presidents," in his words--the first two weeks of the strike. He could lose it all if the Raiders waive him.
But they can't waive him unless he is well. And Rosenfeld said he is.
Asked what is wrong with Hayes' foot now, Rosenfeld said, "Nothing, in my opinion."
Asked if he has talked to the other doctors Hayes said he has seen, Rosenfeld said, "No comment."
There has been speculation that Hayes, a former All-Pro, is simply over the hill and knows it--hence, the current ploy, which, they say, is only coincidental with the strike.
Hayes said: "There are guys out there (picketing) now on Center Street that I'm backing 1,000%. If I wasn't hurt, I'd be out there with 'em."
He said he sought treatment for strained tendons in his left foot from outside doctors, without success. Now he is putting himself back under the care of the Raider medical staff, although it was that same medical staff, Hayes said, that injected his foot with six cubic centimeters of equal parts of xylocaine and cortisone during training camp at Oxnard.
"It's on those guys," Hayes said. "It's on the silver and black. The next day, I only had eight functional toes, and what's frightening me is I (still) cannot function properly."
The injection was given by Dr. Fred Nicola, who referred a reporter to Rosenfeld.
Rosenfeld said Hayes received one cubic centimerer of painkiller, not six.
"He doesn't know what he's talking about," Rosenfeld said. "I never did that (amount) in my life."
Hayes said: "I've had injections before, but it's still out now from eight weeks ago, and it still hurts. I only have eight functional toes, and they're half human and half troglodyte (primitive looking)."
Hayes, 32, said he received several injections last season.
"I received 140 (cubic centimeters) in the hamstring, then at Seattle I received 30 (cubic centimeters) in the left foot. . . . This is all part of football.
"It's not football. It's fleshball. You've gotta play hurt. And I wanted to play last season, so I took the shots, and it's taken its toll now."
None of the striking Raiders seemed bothered by Hayes' defection, but there was some resentment about Long and Pickel. "It was a sad thing," cornerback Mike Haynes said. "I didn't like it at all. Ticked me off. It really did."
Tight end Todd Christensen called it a disappointment. "Howie called me yesterday," he said. "He seemed to tell me that Bill had some peculiar financial commitments."
Christensen said Long didn't explain why Pickel couldn't go in alone, and Pickel refused to comment later.
Long spoke briefly to reporters, saying, "Given the circumstances that were presented to Bill and me--I'm not really at liberty to go into what the circumstances were or what they are--but we felt we did what was best for our families."