RAIDERS REFLECT ON WHAT MADE AL DAVIS UNIQUE
Beat writer Jerry McDonald spent much of the bye week talking to current and former Raiders about Al Davis, with the one-year anniversary of his death on Monday. Here are some highlights:
"I came out for a visit before the draft and he was telling me stuff that I'd done in high school, things I would have never imagined he would know," safety Michael Huff said.
During their first two years, Davis checked in with them often.
"He just wanted to know how I was doing, letting me know he had faith in me," Heyward-Bey said. "He'd call me on holidays, ask how my family was doing."
The same went for Mitchell, who during one of his first visits to Oakland sat and watched as Davis had an extended conversation with his holder brother.
"They talked and talked, and Mr. Davis can talk about anything," Mitchell said. "I'll never forget what he did for my family. He changed my life."
Davis was a little short on Pryor's background in contrast to some players of earlier years.
"I'm not sure he had the energy for that at that point, but he did tell me to work hard, that he believed in me, and to be patient and things would work out," Pryor said. "Wherever and whenever I wind up playing, I will be looking to prove him right for all did for me."
"Every now and then he'd call me in with the list and we'd go over it name by name," Brown said. "He'd want to know, how is this guy doing? How is that guy doing? What can we do? How can we help."
Sometimes, Brown said, the help was financial, sometimes it was with counseling or helping with employment.
Said athletic trainer Rod Martin: "God only knows what all he did for people. He never spoke about it, but from time to time you'd hear what he did for certain players. That was part of him. It was also part of him that he didn't want anyone knowing about it, either."
"My role was to tell him about the health of our players, I'd tell him what we thought, and that's the way it was," Martin said.
And when Davis didn't like the answers?
"I didn't blame him. You don't want to hear one of your players can't play," Martin said. "There was some entertainment in there sometimes, that's for sure."
"I mean, they put some coaching on us," Otto said. "I learned more football that week than I did the whole 1960 and 61 seasons with the Raiders."
"They'd start to line up in a formation and he'd tell you the play that was coming before they'd even finished lining up," Plunkett said. "As he got older he had to rely more on film study than actually being out on the field. And he was on top of everything."
But Davis was fiercely loyal to those he considered friends.
During training camp in 2004, Herrera received a phone call from his wife Kathy, who told him of a terminal diagnosis for cancer. Herrera said he walked the perimeter of the field before going to Davis, who was in the process at that moment of informing star receiver Tim Brown he would be released.
Davis saw the look in Herrera's eyes and "he cleared out the office and called Dr. Bob Albo to get a second opinion. He interrupted a very important thing to him to take care to help me and my wife.
"If you had any kind of life-changing issue he would take the time to go through it and try and offer a solution, or at least take a stab at it. What more could you ask for from another person, another human being?"