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Despite the Records, Former Charger King Is Glad to Be a Raider

November 10, 1987|RICH ROBERTS | Times Staff Writer

Linden King does not want to hear how Alex Spanos, in the four years he has owned the San Diego Chargers, has turned King's former team into a Super Bowl contender.

"I get a kick out of him now because you see him on TV and he says, 'I'm a winner. . . . I this, I that,' " the Raider linebacker said Monday. "Shoot, if that team was losing, he'd be saying 'They.' He doesn't have any team concept whatsoever.

"One thing he has done is bring in good people, and they're doing a hell of a job with that team. But it's a hobby to him. He thinks he can buy everything, but you can't buy knowledge and he doesn't know anything about football. To hear him talk, he should take all the credit."

With that stinging critique of his former employer and fresh from a strong individual effort at Minnesota, King seems primed to play the surprising Chargers (7-1) at San Diego next Sunday night.

When a sore knee prevented Jerry Robinson from playing left outside linebacker against the Minnesota Vikings Sunday, King came in and had a game-high 13 tackles. Nine were unassisted and two were sacks.

The Raiders lost, 31-20--their fifth in a row--but Robinson, paying close attention, pointed out it wasn't his backup's fault. In one late stretch, he noted, King participated in on 5 of 6 tackles.

King shrugged.

"An opportunity presents itself. . . . All I can do is play to the best of my ability," he said. "(But) it doesn't make any difference if you don't win. Everyone here is very critical of himself. Defensively, we played well, and offensively we did some good things, but the breaks are going all the wrong way."

The Raiders (3-5) also are going the wrong way, and Coach Tom Flores noted: "The chances of us making the playoffs are very remote, so we'll just try to concentrate on one game--San Diego."

But King doesn't regret coming to the Raiders in the summer of 1986, although he didn't have anything to say about leaving San Diego. A nine-year pro at the time, drafted in the third round from Colorado State in 1977, he was summarily released without warning.

"I always wanted to play here," he said. "I didn't like the way the thing happened. I was relased for reasons other than playing ability. The coaches weren't aware I was going to be released.

"It was (between) myself and Ron Nay, the director of player personnel at that time. The morning I was released nobody knew about it.

"The attitude starts at the top. (Raider owner) Al Davis knows the game. Davis knows personnel. Davis knows what's going on out there. That was always lacking at San Diego. The owner was making decisions and he had no football knowledge.

"It trickled down to the players. Hell, we'd come in every day during the season, not knowing if we had a job. You'd look at your locker to see if you were still there. You can't play football like that."

There have been sweeping changes since King left, particularly since Al Saunders replaced Don Coryell at midseason of '86 and Steve Ortmayer left the Raiders to become director of player personnel in January.

"I think Coryell was a great coach," King said. "The problem was in an effort to make the team attractive on paper for Spanos to buy it, (former owner) Mr. (Gene) Klein liquidated his good defensive players.

"You can't get rid of a Dan Fouts. Defensive players were easier to get rid of and justify it. (Coryell) was working with limited defensive players for a long time. Now they've made strides, like bringing (linebacker) Chip Banks in (a trade with Cleveland), and they've got a good defense."

Nobody took the Chargers seriously when their strike team left the regulars with a 4-1 record, but the real team continued to roll with wins over Kansas City, Cleveland and Indianapolis.

"The strike helped 'em," King said. "They had an excellent strike team, made up of a lot of (former) Raider players, and their team really stayed together through the whole thing. I think that's probably had something to do with this."

King has kept his home in San Diego. He doesn't know many of the players anymore, but he recognized one while reviewing game films Monday: Fouts.

"I think he looks better than I've seen him in a long time," King said. "He's a hell of a quarterback."

Raider Notes

Tight end Todd Christensen left Sunday's game with a sore right foot on the first play of the second half. He said something "popped" on top of the foot, but X-rays revealed no injury, and Tom Flores said Monday that Christensen will probably play. . . . Backup fullback-kick returner Vance Mueller has a sprained right shoulder but probably will practice. . . . Flores said after reviewing films that he still thinks the Raiders' apparent touchdown should have been allowed when Viking quarterback Wade Wilson's pop-up fumble was caught by James Davis, who ran to the end zone. Wilson slipped away from Howie Long, then lost the ball when Sean Jones sacked him. Officials ruled Wilson's knee was down before he fumbled and the instant-replay official reviewed the play but didn't change the call. A touchdown would have brought the Raiders to within 21-17 late in the third quarter.

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