It’s hard to take preseason games seriously. A win is a win, sure, but it doesn’t mean anything in August. What can be concluded is that the team was capable of successfully traveling across the country and playing a decent football game. The team didn’t embarrass itself and the rest of the league would have to acknowledge that the Raiders were on more or less equal footing with the other teams. It’s clear from the quotes by players and coaches there was a real fear they could have been a laughingstock. But that was put to bed by this game.
Aside from that, the game probably didn’t settle much except to confirm that Tom Flores was their best quarterback. It was probably too soon to tell about Babe Parilli, but Paul Larson, who’d created so much excitement at the time of his signing, wasn’t getting it done. Elsewhere on offense, the running game was unsettled, except for Jack Larscheid, and at just 160 pounds, he wasn’t likely to be able to take the pounding a workhorse back would need to take. And the receiving corps was inspiring no one. The offensive line was a cypher at this point to the distant viewer.
This was just as true for the defense. The Chargers did a number on them, to no one’s surprise, but while they turned in respectable per-play numbers against their other opponents, no one really knew how good any of those teams were, so again it was anyone’s guess how the Raider defense would perform in the regular season.
What did stand out among all the unknowns was the epidemic of minor injuries the players were suffering. Whether the players were out of shape, were being overworked by the coaches, or were poorly looked after by the training staff, seemingly everyone on the roster was dealing with muscle pulls or joint strains that kept them from performing at their best or performing at all, in many cases. Unless player health improved, the team would never find out how good they could be.
At this point, the best the team could hope for was to get past the Patriots, head home, and take full advantage of the remaining two weeks of the preseason. They just needed to survive the road trip without any additional troubles.
With one game left in the preseason, the Raiders were just trying to keep any more players from getting injured. The team’s top running threat, Jack Larscheid, was reportedly hurt with an unspecified ailment and wasn’t expected to play against Boston. Defensive back Wayne Crow was suffering from a pulled ligament that was likely to restrict him to punting duties. And the team labeled halfback Buddy Allen as doubtful to play, too.
Interestingly enough, the player least likely to play on Sunday was someone who said he was healthy and ready to go. Quarterback Tom Flores said his shoulder felt “much better” and hoped to get in there against the Patriots, but head coach Eddie Erdelatz said that probably wasn’t going to happen, both because he wanted to give his top signal-caller more time to heal and because he wanted another long look at Babe Parilli and Paul Larson.
With the end of the preseason near, some of the Raider players took time to reflect on the team’s chances for the season. Though they hadn’t seen all of the teams in the league yet, most of the players thought the Chargers were the team to beat, while a few others favored the Dallas Texans. One player who wasn’t ready to concede to anyone just yet was Larscheid.
“I don’t think you can count us out,” he said. “I think we can beat both Dallas and Los Angeles. We were just getting organized when we played Dallas and I’m convinced was can take Los Angeles.”
While the team still faced some serious holes in its lineup, the league had provided them at potentially valuable remedy. The Raiders would get the first crack at signing any players let go on the final cut-down day, September 6.
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Raider co-owner Robert Osborne reaffirmed that his group was serious about landing an American League baseball team for Oakland. “Several of the Raider owners are interested in the baseball project,” he said, “and we hope to go after the franchise with the same vigor as we did the football thing.”
Speaking of the football thing, the team was trying to determine who would be able to take the field against Boston. Tom Flores was back to throwing the ball and showing few, if any, effects from his recent shoulder injury, but Eddie Erdelatz still had no plans to play him in the game. His tight end, Gene Prebola, who sat out the Buffalo game, was doubtful for this one, too. Also doing time in the trainer’s room were halfback Dean Philpott and defensive back John Harris, both of whom were battling knee sprains.
In league news, the AFL announced that the regular season roster limit would be 35 instead of 33, giving teams a little more depth, a need felt especially by injury-prone teams like the Raiders. Teams would still have to make a preliminary cut to 38 by August 30. The Raiders currently had 43 players on the squad.
With Tom Flores unavailable to play quarterback in the near term and with roster reductions looming, Raiders head coach Eddie Erdelatz was planning to give more playing time to the men on the far end of the bench, starting with Paul Larson. So far, Larson hadn’t shown all that much in camp, displaying an inaccurate arm. Consequently, he had received almost no in-game opportunities, but he was going to get a chance tomorrow, sharing time with Babe Parilli. Plenty of other neglected players were going to get their chances, too.
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With the Raiders leaving Santa Cruz to head east and play the Bills, today marked the end of team’s first training camp, but bad news accompanied the departure. Head coach Eddie Erdelatz revealed that quarterback Tom Flores was likely to miss the rest of the preseason. The cause was a shoulder injury suffered at the hands of the Chargers on what Erdelatz called a “hit after the whistle.” That meant the signal-calling chores would be performed by Paul Larson, who had thrown but a single pass in live action so far, and newcomer Babe Parilli, who had less than a week’s familiarity with the playbook.
A report from Raiders team trainer George Anderson said tight end Gene Prebola’s pulled hamstring muscle would keep him out of Wednesday night’s game in Buffalo. The team held out hope that the Boston University product would recover in time play against the Patriots on Sunday.
Two other players, defensive end Carmen Cavalli, who had suffered a broken nose against Los Angeles, and fullback Billy Lott, who bruised a shoulder in the same game, were going to be ready to go against the Bills, according to Anderson. However, there was still no word about the health of quarterback Tom Flores, who had taken a beating of his own Friday night.
The Texans got into town at 2pm and it looked like the game was really going to happen. There was a modest panic earlier in the week when it looked as if the Raiders wouldn’t have anything to wear. The team’s jersey manufacturer made a shipping error that resulted in the uniforms being sent from Kansas City to a location on the East Coast. There they languished unnoticed for several days while anxious team officials put out a dragnet. Eventually the missing jerseys were discovered and were shipped to a San Francisco company for numbering before being delivered to the team.
Now that disaster had been averted, optimism was in the air. The Raider front office expected attendance for the game to surpass 25,000 with some suggesting the number might go as high as 35,000. Locals were hoping the Raiders would beat the Texans, but the real competition was with the 49ers. Team owners knew that playing in San Francisco put them in direct competition with their NFL counterpart for ticket sales and hoped the Oakland community would cross the bay to provide enthusiastic support for their team.