Biekert leaves Raiders, his status unknown

Middle linebacker Greg Biekert has left the Raiders and apparently is ready to seek work elsewhere. Amid reports that Oakland has threatened to cut the 10-year NFL veteran if he doesn't agree to restructure his contract, Biekert met with owner Al Davis and senior executive Bruce Allen Tuesday then drove away from the team's facilities in Alameda without practicing as his future with the club hung in the balance.

Biekert, Oakland's defensive captain and the team leader in tackles the last four years, is slated to earn $2.5 million in base salary this year. But the Raiders have told Biekert that they want him to agree to a restructured deal that would pay him only $1 million this year.

''I've talked to Greg several times in the last 24 hours,'' said Allen, who handles the majority of contract negotiations for the Raiders. ''Right now Greg is a part of this team. There's nothing final.''

Not so, according to Biekert and his agent, Jack Mills. While Oakland head coach Bill Callahan told reporters he expected Biekert to be in the starting lineup Thursday night for the Raiders preseason finale against Arizona, the veteran linebacker said he wasn't sure where his future is. This came amid reports that the Raiders were starting to back off their ultimatum, as the health of linebacker Bill Romanowski remain uncertain.

In a somewhat bizarre scene, Biekert left the Raiders facilities in a clandestine move that can only be compared to something straight out of a James Bond movie. At the same time Callahan was putting Oakland through its final full-scale practice before the game against the Cardinals, a group of reporters gathered near the players' parking lot in anticipation of speaking with Biekert.

But Biekert never appeared. Instead, a member of the Raiders organization emerged and drove away in Biekert's bergundy Dodge truck. After returning and driving around the parking lot briefly, the unknown employee again drove away. At the same time Biekert -- hoping to avoid the crush of media gathered behind the team's facilities -- was leaving through the front doors of the building and drove away in a smaller, albeit same colored, truck than his own. The two men then met six blocks away and exchanged vehicles.

Later Biekert spoke briefly about his situation, saying he wasn't sure what his status with the Raiders.

''I don't know,'' Biekert said. ''I'm on my way home now. I had to avoid (the media) because I didn't want to say something I'd regret later on.''

But Mills held nothing back, saying Biekert was ''through'' with the Raiders.

''We're not even attempting to work a deal with them,'' Mills told the Sacramento Bee. ''We're through. This is the worst I've ever seen. I don't think fair's in the equation.''

Biekert was a seventh-round draft pick of the Raiders in 1993 and had been the team's ironhorse at middle linebacker, starting every game but three since moving into the lineup his second year in the NFL. The three games Biekert didn't start carry an asterisk: he played in all three but was not in the starting lineup because Raiders opened in nickel or dime defenses.

Biekert said he would seek employment elsewhere if Oakland follows through on its threat to release him. Among teams who have already called the Raiders are Philadelphia and Minnesota, where former Raiders Willie Shaw works and who is said to be very interested in acquiring Biekert should he become available.


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