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Shell Says He--Not Davis--Decided to Put Allen on Bench

December 16, 1992|STEVE SPRINGER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Hurt would be the best word to describe Raider Coach Art Shell on Tuesday.

Hurt that running back Marcus Allen chose to air his feud with owner Al Davis on Monday night in Miami, where the Raiders were playing the Dolphins in a nationally televised game. The Raiders lost, 20-7, and were eliminated from postseason consideration.

Hurt that Allen couldn't accept the limited role the Raiders have given him.

But particularly hurt that Allen had said Monday that Shell had said he was powerless to prevent Davis from demoting the tailback.

It has long been assumed that Davis has called the shots on his team, regardless of the coach. But, at least in this case, Shell insists it isn't so.

"I'm taking it personal," Shell said. "I'm disappointed in (Allen). To say that I told him I was out of it and had no control over it is wrong. I dispute that.

"Look, Al Davis has a lot of input in our personnel decisions and rightfully so, because he understands personnel. He doesn't always agree with me when I make a decision on who is going to play and who is not going to play. But, in the final analysis, I was hired to make the decisions and, if those decisions don't work out, then I'll be fired, because I am the head coach.

"I, one person, made the choice as to who would be the featured running back."

That choice was Eric Dickerson, who was acquired in an off-season trade. Allen, who held out during training camp, eventually became the third back, behind Dickerson and Nick Bell. The leading rusher in Raider history, Allen is used on short-yardage, goal-line and third-down plays.

"The reason I made the choice was that Eric was here the whole training camp," Shell said. "So was Nick Bell. Marcus wasn't. . . . You can't have a rotation of three backs. So I tried to figure out a way for each of them to make a contribution to our football team."

Davis went from the Miami game to Dallas to attend an owners' meeting and was unavailable for further comment on Allen's remarks.

Shell concedes that he has talked to Allen about leaving the Raiders.

"He's come in and asked about being traded," Shell said. "I said to him, 'Marcus, I'm not going to give you away. I'm not into that for selfish reasons. I don't want to trade you because I think you're a hell of a football player, and I don't want to just give you away to somebody out there and hurt our football team.' "

Shell has shied away from discussing personnel moves. But Allen's statements Monday that he had been benched as part of a vendetta by Davis appeared to strike a nerve in Shell, who apparently felt he had been left looking like a puppet.

Allen indicated Monday night that his career with the Raiders is over after 11 seasons, one way or another.

"I'm not going to respond to that," Shell said.

He won't have to if a proposed new contract agreement between the owners and players, liberalizing free agency, is agreed upon.

"If you go by the guidelines you read in the paper, (Allen) would be free to do what he wants to do," Shell said. "If that's the case, then this is probably his last year with the Raiders."

Was Shell surprised that Allen chose a Monday night game with a national audience to express his feelings?

"Yeah, I am," Shell said. "National TV--I guess if you want a venue, that is the venue to have. Here we are, fighting and trying to survive, and something like this comes up. That disappoints me."

Shell knew about Allen's frustration but said that didn't justify Allen's actions.

"We all become frustrated at some point in our careers," said Shell.

"Those things happen. A lot of guys get frustrated and want to be traded, but they still end up playing for the team they are with.

"Frustration is part of this business. You are not always going to be happy with what is going on. You are not always going to be happy with your contract. You are not always going to be happy with your playing time. But that's just the nature of this game. You are just going to have to work very hard to achieve what you want and, in the process, not be a disruptive force on your football team."

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