SAN DIEGO — The Chargers did some rearranging in their defensive backfield Thursday by signing Mike Davis, 31, a former Raider strong safety, and announcing that Jeff Dale, a two-year starting strong safety, will undergo back surgery that will sideline him for the season.
Davis, who helped the Raiders win two Super Bowl championships, joined the team at practice for the first time Thursday. He should be ready for the Nov. 1 game against Cleveland.
Dale, 25, has decided to have surgery on a bulging disc that has bothered him since the off-season. He hasn't missed a start in the last two seasons and was the club's second-leading tackler last year.
"It's getting late in the season, as far as thinking in terms of next year are concerned," said Dale, who could have opted for continued therapy but still would have needed surgery if the therapy did not work. "I've had enough time to recover and feel better, but I still don't feel good enough to come back and play football, so something has to be done. I want to be ready for next year."
Dale is confident of returning.
"Any time you have an operation like this, in a sense it is career-threatening, there's always that chance," he said. "But the plan is, it will work."
The surgery will be performed by Dr. Arthur White, who last season performed back surgery on Joe Montana, the San Francisco 49er quarterback.
Although Davis probably will not immediately take Dale's place in the lineup, he has experience on his side. Davis was part of a secondary that helped the Raiders to Super Bowl victories in 1980 and 1983. In the 1986 preseason, he lost his job to Stacey Toran, then missed the entire season with knee problems. After missing much of this year's camp with an Achilles' tendon problem, he was cut from the Raiders.
"There's still some questions as to why I'm not there, and answers that I'm not satisfied with," Davis said. "But I'm here now, and that's all I'm thinking about. I see a good young nucleus here. Watching the guys practice, I can see how they feel about being in first place and how they want to stay there.
"I think, because of what I've done, I can offer the team some leadership, by solid advice and example."
Coach Al Saunders also announced that right tackle will be the only difference in Sunday's lineup from the Sept. 20 pre-strike lineup that started against the St. Louis Cardinals. Gary Kowalski, formerly a starter, will be splitting time with James FitzPatrick, the team's top draft pick in 1986.