As the roster deadline approached the Raiders continued to move pieces, dropping four and adding one. The four players let go were end Dan Edgington, halfbacks John Harris and Brad Myers, and center Mac Starnes. Edgington was perhaps a bit of a surprise as he had been penciled in as a starter opposite Charlie Hardy as recently as the last week of August, but he hadn’t caught a pass in the preseason and with Alan Goldstein and Tony Teresa being considered for the spot, Edgington was apparently expendable. Harris was another who seemed to have a spot on the team, but he had been battling knee problems and the Raiders were comparatively deep in the defensive backfield. Myers was still another who held promise, but he couldn’t get past Teresa, Billy Lott, and Jack Larscheid. Starnes’ release was simple: Jim Otto was already on the roster.
The new player was 6’1″, 220-pound fullback JD “Jetstream” Smith1, out of Compton Junior College. Smith, claimed off waivers from the Chargers, had played against the Raiders on August 19, but hadn’t made the stat sheet. With his combination of speed and power, he could be expected to challenge Lott for the starting fullback spot.
These moves left the Raiders with the mandated 33 players in time for the September 6 deadline.
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1Smith has been identified in several different ways by the press and other sources. Most of the papers at the time referred to him at Jetstream or Jet. Others used the name Jim, while still others called him JD. To confuse matters further, Pro Football Reference lists a total of three JD Smith’s playing in the pros at this time. In addition to Jetstream, there was a HB-FB JD Smith who played in the NFL from 1956-66, mostly with the 49ers, but also with the Bears and Cowboys, and an offensive tackle JD Smith who played with the Eagles and Lions from 1959-66. With no definitive answer and no idea which name Smith himself prefers, the Logbook will refer to him as JD to maintain consistency with Pro Football Reference. If anyone knows different, please let me know.
It was one of those late August evenings in San Francisco where the first hint of autumn chill reminded everyone that summer doesn’t last forever. A stiff breeze off the water was present as usual, but there was a thick fog filling the bowl of Kezar Stadium that refused to budge. It was hard to know if it was the weather that kept people away, or if it was simple disinterest, but just 6,521 curiosity-seekers came out to watch the Chargers play the Raiders in the first meeting of these California rivals.
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After having watched films of the Titans game, Raider head coach Eddie Erdelatz said he was making some changes to the offense. The team would now use a split end and a tight end instead of the two tight end formation they had previously been using. Along with that change, Erdelatz announced a shuffling of the depth chart at the ball-handling positions. To wit:
Split end: Charlie Hardy, Alan Goldstein, John Brown
Tight end: Gene Prebola, Charles Moore
Flanker: Dan Edgington, Irv Nikolai, Brad Myers
Halfback: Tony Teresa, Jack Larscheid, Ron Drzewiecki
Fullback: Billy Lott, Buddy Allen, Dean Philpott
Despite the changes, the Raider coach had nothing but good things to say about his team’s performance, praising the interior of the offensive line — Jim Otto, Wayne Hawkins, and Ron Sabal — in particular.
“We played well as a team against the Titans,” he said, “It appears as though the way we practice is paying off. The kids could have gone another half had they needed to. This gang has great spirit. I’ve seen such hustle work wonders before and it looks like it’s happening again.”
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The team had a day off following the game, but head coach Eddie Erdelatz took that time to review the films, and based on what he saw, cut five players the following morning: halfbacks Alex Gardner and Ray Peterson, tackle Willie Boykin, guard Bob Harrison, and defensive back Bob Fails. He then added one back in the person of 6’1″, 185-pound halfback John Harris, formerly of Santa Monica Junior College. Harris combined speed and strength as a runner for the Corsairs and made first team All-Metro Conference in 1957 and later spent a season with the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Most recently, he had been in Chargers camp, but had been waived, giving the Raiders a chance to pick him up. Also returning to the team was tackle Fred Fehn, who had spent the past couple of weeks nursing a leg injury. This put the head count at 48, five over the limit of the first mandatory cut on August 22.
Erdelatz said he found no surprises in the movies. “We’ll try and correct the mistakes made in that game before going on to the new stuff,” he said. “They performed well considering everything and we’re expecting considerable improvement by the time we play New York.” To that end, he held a surprise 90-minute scrimmage that focused on improving both the running and the passing game.
Afterward, even more changes were made. Guard Charlie Kaaihue, a potential first-teamer who had been temporarily sidelined because of injury, was cut for what was reported as “disciplinary reasons.” The team also announced the signing of yet two more players, fullback Jim Varnado, and end Charles Moore. Additionally, Erdelatz made an offensive line adjustment, moving Ron Sabal from right guard to right tackle, in place of Don Churchwell. Don Manoukian moved in to take Sabal’s spot at guard. And, finally, Varnado’s signing meant a move for Brad Myers from fullback to halfback.
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American Football League commissioner Joe Foss was in town today to visit the Raiders’ training camp in Santa Cruz. Upon inspection, he said the facilities were on par with what he had seen during his visits to other teams. He was also satisfied with the team’s season ticket sales, saying the reported sale of 8,500 was in line with other teams: well behind the Chargers at 18,000, but far ahead of the tail-enders like the Texans.
In player news, further examination of third-string quarterback Bob Webb’s knee revealed that the injury was not as severe as originally thought. Initial reports suggested he had torn cartilage and would need surgery, but now the team thought he could be back at practice in a week.
Meanwhile, head coach Eddie Erdelatz was still moving pieces around on the depth chart. With Marv Lasater gone, Erdelatz moved LC Joyner up to take his place. Newly-signed Tom Louderback was shifted into the starting middle linebacker spot formerly occupied by Larry Barnes. Barnes would now put in his work at left defensive end. On offense, Erdelatz moved second-teamer Brad Myers from halfback to fullback.
Hard work continued at Raider training camp. As the first week came to a close it was evident that getting the players in shape was the first goal of the coaching staff. Eddie Erdelatz was happy so far. “We’ve got our toughest week behind us now,” he said, “I’m satisfied with the improvement and I think we have accomplished our mission this first week. These players want to play and they have a great attitude, which is very important. They are hearing me, so to speak, and from what I observed they like this type of camp. After one week I think we have good backfield speed, which will improve as our timing is perfected. Our line has average speed, but again, this will improve as the big guys get into better shape, and the squad is beginning to work as a team.”
Tom Flores, who was the early frontrunner for the starting quarterback position, and end Charlie Hardy were standout performers on offense, while Wayne Crow and Tony Teresa were looking good on defense.
Still, the injuries kept coming. This time around it was running back Brad Myers. Myers, who hadn’t been mentioned in previous reports, was a 6’1″, 195-pound back out of Bucknell. He ended his collegiate career as the Bison’s career leader in rushing yards and points and made honorable mention Associated Press Little All-America in 1952. He was picked in the ninth round of the 1953 draft by the Rams and had a nice rookie season, but went into the army afterward. Upon returning to Los Angeles in 1956, he couldn’t quite regain his old form and an injury ended his season early. He was traded to the Steelers, but was cut in camp, then ended up with the Eagles in 1958, but played sparingly. Now with the Raider, he joined the many players who had succumbed to a muscle pull and was unable to practice for now.
There was also one defection on the day. Idaho end Walt Denny (misidentified in the Tribune as Idaho State end Jim Denny, of whom there is no record) decided he had had enough and left camp voluntarily.
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