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Wait Ends for Raiders; Rocket Lands

September 01, 1993|STEVE SPRINGER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Raider Coach Art Shell stood before a bank of microphones, surveyed the media crowd around him, looked anxiously at the entrance to the interview room and said, with a smile, "We're still waiting."

Not any longer.

An instant later, Raghib (Rocket) Ismail strode through the door, 2 1/2 years after the Raiders drafted the receiver/return man in the fourth round from Notre Dame, six months after they started negotiating with him, but only several hours after he signed a two-year, $3-million contract. Ismail flew in from his Pennsylvania home Tuesday morning after his attorney, Bob Woolf, and the Raiders finally broke the impasse in contract talks that had lasted all through the exhibition season.

Ismail was asked two basic questions over and over: How did he feel and would he play in Sunday's season opener.

"It's kind of a different world," Ismail said after taking part in his first practice in silver and black. "I was just going through the motions, trying to look like I fit in without sticking out too bad. . . . The environment was foreign."

As to whether Ismail would be ready to face the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday at the Coliseum, Shell said: "The guy just landed. We're not going to rush into anything. We're smart enough not to do that. He has time. We have time."

If Ismail plays at all Sunday, he will probably return kicks.

"That's feasible," said Steve Ortmayer, the special teams coach, "but it's up to Art."

Ismail spent the last two years playing for the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League under a four-year, $18-million deal.

The majority of that money was in the form of a personal-services contract with owner Bruce McNall, stipulating that Ismail was being paid to promote the team and the league.

The Argonauts say Ismail violated the terms of that deal. Woolf said Tuesday he will pursue a settlement through arbitration.

According to a statement issued by McNall's office: "Bruce is distressed that the threat of litigation is disrupting what should be a happy occasion and believes that it would be in everyone's best interest to begin looking forward instead of backward. Obviously, any litigation which Rocket chooses to initiate would be vigorously defended."

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