Raiders have a rift to settle

While new head coach Lane Kiffin works on assembling the remainder of his staff, the Raiders have at least one other unresolved issue to attend to before turning their attention to the NFL draft.

Senior personnel executive Mike Lombardi, who was involved in a bitter feud with former head coach Art Shell last season, has contacted other teams around the league about potential job openings and could be on his way out of Oakland.

Lombardi was noticeably absent during Tuesday's press conference announcing the hiring of Kiffin,a 55-minute question-and-answer session with Kiffin and Raiders owner Al Davis. That was a marked change from previous years when Lombardi would sit at the front table alongside the 77-year-old Davis.

But instead of taking his customary position Lombardi was outside jogging, returning shortly after the press conference ended. Lombardi quickly ducked inside the Raiders' facilities before he could be asked questions regarding his absence.

Davis bristled when queried about Lombardi's status, calling the question stupid and saying Lombardi was indeed still employed by the Raiders.

But Davis conceded that Lombardi's future with the team isn't so clear.

''We'll address that when I address it with Michael, see what he wants to do,'' Davis said.

The loss of Lombardi wouldn't be a huge blow to the Raiders' hierarchy. Since stepping in to replace Bruce Allen as the team's lead contract negotiator, Lombardi has not moved up the ranks nor assumed much power within the franchise.

Lombardi, Davis acknowledged, was behind the team's push to hire Bobby Petrino last year before the then-Louisville coach turned down Oakland's offer. The Raiders eventually hired Shell while Petrino stayed with the Cardinals before recently accepting the head coaching job with the Atlanta Falcons.

Beyond his appearances at major press conferences with the Raiders, Lombardi kept a relatively low profile publicly until his fued with Shell became public. Late during Oakland's 2-14 season, Shell blasted an unnamed individual within the team's front office who he claimed was ''rooting'' against the Raiders.

''When the fox is in coop, when the fox is inside your chicken coop or your hen house, under the guise of football sources in the National Football League making statements and not being a part of this thing, not just making statements about me but ownership, how can you accept a paycheck from somebody that's given you a job and given you an opportunity to try to excel in life, and then turn around and call your cronies around the league and it gets back to me and I'm tired of it,'' Shell said.

''When you root against me, you're rooting against the Raiders ... and for someone to do that is unconscionable. It's unconscionable. It's detestable and I think it's an outrage. I think it's very unfair because we're all hired to do a job and you need everybody in the organization to be on the same page. I don't think that individual's on the same page as us, not when you go around and call around the league, and stuff's getting back across my desk about the things that you're saying about me personally, about my coaching staff personally, about my team personally. That's a problem for me.''

Nothing further ever came of the subject, at least not publicly. Shell was fired and Lombardi remains with the team in some capacity, though for how much longer is up for debate.

At Kiffin's press conference, Davis put an even stranger twist on the situation when he spoke as though he still needed to patch up the problem between Lombardi and Shell.

''That is a terrible rift between (Lombardi) and Shell that has to be straightened out somehow,'' Davis said. ''And unfortunately, it's the things a parent doesn't like to do between two children. I don't want to get involved but I have to get involved.''


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