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Their Fanfare Is for Signing of Player Who Covers Brown

March 16, 1994|STEVE SPRINGER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Raiders held a rare, full-blown news conference Tuesday to announce the signing of . . .

Tim Brown?

Would you believe cornerback Albert Lewis?

The Raiders must announce by 1 p.m. Friday whether they will match the four-year, $11-million offer sheet Brown has signed with the Denver Broncos.

But the only announcement they made Tuesday concerned the acquisition of the 33-year-old Lewis, an unrestricted free agent from the Kansas City Chiefs.

The 6-foot-2, 195-pound Lewis, coming off one of his best seasons, signed a three-year, $4.5-million deal, with the first year kept below the average for salary-cap purposes. Lewis made $850,000 last season.

The Chiefs were reportedly caught off guard at the news. They had expected Lewis to givethem a chance to match any offer.

Lewis also talked to the Atlanta Falcons and the San Diego Chargers.

A third-round draft choice of the Chiefs in 1983 from Grambling, Lewis is third among active players with 38 interceptions, six last season. But he is under no illusions about his playing time with his new team.

He knows that the Raiders have Pro Bowl player Terry McDaniel at one corner and veteran Lionel Washington at the other.

"Realistically, I come to the Raiders with no preconceived notions, but a lot of ambition," Lewis said. "My whole idea of coming to the Raiders is that I have an opportunity to compete.

"I don't see myself, and I never will, as a backup. I'll never accept that unless it really happens That's not my mentality."

That's understandable. Lewis is himself a four-time Pro Bowl player, a veteran able to combine productivity with versatility. He is known for coming up with big plays in opposing backfields as well as in the secondary.

In last season's playoffs, Lewis sacked the Houston Oilers' Warren Moon twice in Kansas City's 28-20 second-round victory. Lewis has also spent time in opposing backfields as a member of the Chiefs' special teams. He has blocked 11 punts, four in 1986 alone.

And Lewis has proved to be an emotional leader as well. His fellow players give him the credit for igniting Kansas City's comeback postseason victory over Houston two months ago. His tackle of running back Gary Brown near the end of the first half led to a fight that fired up the Chiefs and inspired them to overcome a 10-0 deficit.

"You can't have enough good cornerbacks," Raider Coach Art Shell said. "Especially with all the three- and four-receiver sets."

Owner Al Davis apparently feels the same way, which has been appreciated among the rank and file.

"All the great cornerbacks want to wind up here," said Scott Casterline, Lewis' agent. "I represent 13 cornerbacks and they all like the Raider tradition."

OK, but what about Brown?

Was Tuesday's news conference designed to show a Raider desire to get on with the future, to emphasize that the team is still in the business of signing players, even if Brown is not necessarily one of them?

"Albert will be covering Tim," said Steve Ortmayer, the Raiders' director of football operations, "either here in practice or somewhere else."

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