Raiders get fined for missing interviews

Posted: Friday, January 24, 2003

SAN DIEGO -- Just pay, baby.

The Oakland Raiders were fined $50,000 Thursday for flaunting the NFL's media policy the previous day by skipping the mandatory morning interview session.

They did it again Thursday.

At least a dozen players either didn't attend Wednesday's one-hour session or left early, including Bill Romanowski and Sebastian Janikowski. The league cited a communications breakdown on the Raiders' part.

On Thursday, similar numbers of Raiders either were unavailable or sat at the wrong tables or strolled through the media tent with video cameras. And again, several left early.

It was yet another example of the Raiders' petulance during their first Super Bowl week in 19 years. On media day Tuesday, they held up proceedings for 50 minutes. They also were involved in a dispute over access for pool reporters at practice, insisting on further limiting how much the reporters could watch.

Among the players who didn't sit in his assigned area Thursday was All-Pro safety Rod Woodson, who instead was in the spot for rookie Phillip Buchanon. Linebacker Eric Barton was seen wandering through the tent. All-Pro center Barret Robbins didn't reach his assigned spot until there were 20 minutes remaining in the session.

Despite Thursday's absenteeism, the league said the Raiders ''fully participated in all other required media sessions this week.''

Raiders owner Al Davis, who coined the phrase ''Just win, baby,'' when the Raiders regularly were contending for championships, has not attended the interview sessions. He has been a regular, as always, at the team's practices.

Meanwhile, NFLPA executive director Gene Upshaw and the players called for a change in the rules for overtime games to allow both teams to get the ball. The union will recommend the change to the league's competition committee, with the hope something could happen at the owners' meetings in March.

''If you look at the games this year, you see how much closer they're getting,'' Upshaw said. ''It only stands to reason that if you get into overtime, you should have a fair chance to win.''

The Raiders believe they have a fair chance to win even though there is a perception they are wimps on defense. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers plan to prove they are not buffoons on offense.

True, neither is ranked at the top of the league the way the Raiders are with the ball and the way the Buccaneers are when the opposition has it. And neither has gotten much credit for lifting its team to a conference title.

''But we've played well,'' Raiders cornerback Charles Woodson said. ''We've been beaten up and we still played well. So we're not concerned about their defense getting all the attention.''

Nor are the Bucs offended that they're pretty much ignored while all the recognition goes to Oakland's high-powered attack.

''If we win the Super Bowl, that will change,'' wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson said. ''The Super Bowl puts the stamp and the legacy on what you did in your career. The great players win Super Bowls. The stats don't matter -- it's the ring.''

Ah, the ring. To win it, the Bucs can't have their offense become bystanders. Same for Oakland's defense.

Tampa Bay ranked 24th in yards gained (27th rushing, 15th passing). The Bucs scored 346 points, but the defense scored five touchdowns, four by NFL defensive player of the year Derrick Brooks, and the special teams had one. The defense also set up a bunch of points by forcing 38 turnovers, including 31 interceptions.

In other words, that all-world D made things far easier for the sometimes-pedestrian offense.

But the Buccaneers have begun to establish an identity offensively, and they've been efficient enough in the playoffs.

''We have attitude,'' Pro Bowl fullback Mike Alstott said. ''We haven't always looked pretty, but we get the job done one way or another.

We try to be very physical up front, we have a wide receiver corps that will go downfield and block. They are horses.

''Remember, we have a new offense, a new O line since Jon (Gruden) was hired as our coach. Ask any player in the NFL when you have gone through dramatic changes like we have, to be asked to be perfect in nine months, it can't happen.''

Here's what the stars on the Bucs' stingy defense believe can happen: Their teammates on offense will rise to the challenge of winning a championship. All-Pro defensive tackle Warren Sapp doesn't want people separating Tampa's units.

''We've got an inferno going,'' he said, ''and when that three-headed monster -- offense, defense, special teams -- raises his head, he is impossible to slay.''

Oakland's defenders say they are ready for that monster, regardless of how many heads it has. The Raiders have plenty of big names on defense, from Rod Woodson to Charles Woodson to Romanowski to tackle Sam Adams. Rod Woodson, Romanowski and Adams already have won Super Bowls with other teams, so there is no lack of success, experience or leadership on the squad.

The Raiders ranked 11th in yards allowed and a very impressive third against the run, ahead of the Bucs, who were fifth. But Oakland was 23rd against the pass and allowed 304 points, 108 more than the NFC champions.

''They might not get the notoriety of Tampa's defense,'' Raiders coach Bill Callahan said, ''but it is a defense that has improved and continues to make plays. The value of our defense was so important to us down the stretch.''

Oakland's defense also has injury concerns, most notably Charles Woodson's leg. Although he made the Pro Bowl, he's had a difficult stretch, particularly in the playoffs.

''We overcame a lot of injuries on that side of the ball,'' Callahan said. ''How we stayed together to do that and play at such a high level is astronomical.''

The number of points the Raiders usually put up is astronomical. If the game turns into a shootout, the Bucs are done.

However, if Tampa can establish its tempo when it has the ball, how long will league MVP Rich Gannon and his compatriots get to assert themselves?

Adams, a Super Bowl winner two years ago with Baltimore, says not to count on that happening. Besides, it's not what everyone wants.

''Our job is to get off the field as quick as possible and let our guys do their thing on offense,'' Adams said. ''I'd pay to see it, too: No. 1 vs. No. 1.

''Yeah, we have a solid defense and they are a good offense. But it's not what people are paying to see.''

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