CHICAGO — The Raiders have never had a winless exhibition season, but then they've never been 0-3 going into their finale against the Chicago Bears, either.
So even if Jim McMahon goes for only a half tonight, and if the Fridge comes in at 400 pounds, give or take an ice shelf, and Mike Singletary and Otis Wilson are injured, and Coach Mike Ditka doesn't deign to throw the all-out blitz package at them, the Raiders are going to have to try getting on the board against quality opposition.
It'll be their latest edition:
--Steve Beuerlein remains the No. 1 quarterback, his 41.5% completion average notwithstanding, though Jay Schroeder rumors are flying.
--The offensive line has three position changes involving four players--Don Mosebar to tackle, Bruce Wilkerson to guard, Bill Lewis to center, Brian Holloway to the bench.
--Reggie McKenzie replaces Linden King at left outside linebacker.
--Defensive end Bob Buczkowski, 1985's No. 1 pick who once was slated to succeed Sean Jones, goes to the bench as Mike Wise takes over on the left side.
--There was almost a change at cornerback, but Lionel Washington, a projected starter, has a groin pull, giving Mike Haynes what may be a last chance to hold his job.
Exhibition or no, the Raiders, struggling to assimilate a new coaching staff and offensive system, could use a victory to let them know they're headed in the right direction, or any direction.
"I'm probably one of the most optimistic people," running back Marcus Allen said. "I really feel good about this team. But talent isn't enough. We have to believe in ourselves.
"We're going to make mistakes. But no matter how many mistakes we make, we have to believe we can come back.
"I want to win as soon as possible. We always say, 'Well, OK, it doesn't matter,' but I like to win. I'd like to win against my grandmother.
"Right now we're a little unsure of what we're doing. But we're getting to the point in preseason where it doesn't matter. We've got to get it done."
Beuerlein comes in with 2 touchdown passes and 4 interceptions. Nevertheless, he is still the projected season starter and may go all the way tonight.
The Bears are 1-2 but they're beyond worrying about winning exhibitions. They've got problems--sacks are down, linebacker Otis Wilson has been lost with a knee injury, tackles Jimbo Covert and Keith Van Horne have just ended holdouts, William (the Refrigerator) Perry is just back from the fat farm--but confidence isn't one of them, yet.
"The main thing, it's a preseason game," Ditka said. "You can't lose sight of your objective, what you're trying to accomplish.
"We haven't set a game plan per se against the Los Angeles Raiders in any way. We want to look at some people. We're not going to show everything. We're not going to blitz all-out. We'll bring one or two people."
Some small entertainment values are still present, though.
The Raiders will be back at Soldier Field for the first time since the 1984 horror show, in which Marc Wilson was knocked out of the game and David Humm out of football.
Willie Gault, having a terrific exhibition season, will face his old teammates, some of whom thought he preened too much when he was there.
Perry is back. "Fridge is going to start and play," Ditka said. "Left end. You won't be able to miss him, either. He's all there."
Is Ditka trying to say that the speculation is correct, and Perry, who reported in around 380 pounds, hasn't lost that much weight?
"Oh, you know, speculation comes from spectators," Ditka said. "We're participants. The participant lost a little weight. I would say he's hanging in around 335-340."
You'd hate to have him hanging over you, but that's Beuerlein's problem tonight, among others.