Davis keeps it interesting

It wasn't nearly as entertaining as the press conference he held with reporters last September, but Raiders' owner Al Davis' sit-down with reporters on Wednesday provided a few noteworthy highlights nevertheless.

More than five weeks after Oakland's season ended, Davis held court and did most of the talking at an almost hour-long press conference announcing Tom Cable as the team's head coach. Sitting at a table on stage alongside Cable and staring out at a auditorium of reporters, the 79-year-old Davis addressed everything from his decision to hire, the possibility of sharing a stadium with the 49ers and the situation with soon-to-be-free agent Nnamdi Asomugha.

As always, though, Davis saved his best comments for after.

He chided the previous coaching staff for not playing some of the Raiders younger players earlier in the season. Davis specifically targeted former head coach Lane Kiffin for his criticism. Unlike earlier claims, when the Raiders said Kiffin was fired not for what happened on the field but for other issues off the field, Davis said Kiffin's refusal to play the younger players was a prime reason he was let go.

Granted, it's an old story. But whenever the subject of Kiffin is discussed with Davis, it's worth listening.

"He wouldn't do it," Davis said. "That's why he had to get fired."

Asked if Kiffin had collected any of the money he says the Raiders still owe him -- he's since filed a grievance with the NFL over that matter -- Davis used a colorful word to punctuate his point before moving forward with his criticism.

"I tried to reason with (Kiffin)," Davis said. "I thought we could get something out of him and I wanted to push it through to see if I could push it through. I guess it was my stubbornness too but he was bad. He was a liar, flat out, which I told you. I've never broken away from it. They know it. The players know it. He would lie to them about things and all he wanted to do was get out of here, get his money. If I had made the move at the start of the season I'm not sure I would have had cause."

The topic was then changed to former defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who left after five seasons in Oakland to join Cleveland's staff this offseason. Though he twice interviewed Ryan for the head coaching position with the Raiders and made Art Shell and Kiffin retain him as their defensive coordinator, Davis said it was time for Ryan to go.

"I like Rob Ryan a lot but it was time to make a change and it was best in the fact that Tom Cable was the new head coach, or could be the new head coach … and I thought it would be best for Rob," Davis said. "It's ironic, Rob goes to Cleveland and they're bragging on him. They got Rob Ryan. Greg Knapp, who we had the worst pass offense in the league two years in a row, they're bragging on him in Seattle. Here, no one bragged on those guys. But I didn't try with Rob. He's a good friend. I thought it was time for him to move on."

Davis also took a few not-so-subtle jabs at former Raiders Warren Sapp and Rich Gannon, both of whom have been critical of the team in the past.

Sapp, who played in Oakland for four seasons before retiring following the 2007 season and taking a job with Showtime and the NFL Network, made several biting comments about the Raiders organization and said he wouldn't advise friends to go there.

"Well you figure that one out," Davis said. "I gave Tommy Kelly $40 million and didn't give it to (Sapp). The funny thing is Sapp begged to have the preseason TV and I wouldn't do it because he's off the handle. You don't know what he's going to say. He made it up to me on his TV shows."

As for Gannon, who was the NFL's MVP in 2002 while leading the Raiders to the Super Bowl where he set an NFL record with five interceptions, Davis landed a decidedly low blow to his former quarterback before attempting to back off.

"Rich played the greatest game in Super Bowl history in (2002)," Davis said. "Just joking. Rich was very nice to us on TV in that last game when we beat Tampa wasn't he? He writes me notes he'd like to assist. More ex-Raiders who'd like to come back and work here than you can imagine."

Other highlights from Davis:

· His health is apparently improving. Davis suffered a fall in San Diego in early December and was unable to accompany the Raiders on their season-ending flight to Tampa Bay as a result of doctors orders.

"What happened was in San Diego I went down," Davis said. "Now whether I was tripped or whether I fell, I went down, got up, start walking around and my right leg swelled up on me and to get the swelling out I couldn't go on the trip. But I'm fine now. I'm back again."

For the record, Davis looked fine and didn't use his walker on stage.

· The Raiders owner was somewhat cryptic when asked about his past comments regarding the need to bring someone into the front office to help with player personnel.

"We have two executives in personnel but I don't know if we're going to keep, if they're going to stay," Davis said. "I haven't made up my mind exactly what I'm going to do but I'm going to do something. I haven't made up my mind exactly what I'm going to do."

Presumably one of the two is executives Davis referred to is Rich Snead. Just taking a guess but the other is probably Keith Rowen.

· Davis acknowledged that the situation facing him with regards to cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha and punter Shane Lechler is a difficult one. Both are set to become free agents on Feb. 27 and there is no guarantee either will be back in Oakland next season.

"We've got a tough problem with Nnamdi and Lechler, a tough problem," Davis said. "They're both unsigned and you only have one franchise designation. I'm not resigned to anything. But I say it's tough."

· Although he remains happy with the team being in Oakland, Davis said the team is not in talks to extend its current lease at the Coliseum and is open to sharing a stadium with the 49ers, an issue that has taken on greater significance to both teams in recent years.

"It depends on what revenue you have to give up to built a new stadium," Davis said. "There are a lot of issues involved. When we came back to Oakland they fixed it. When we went to Los Angeles they fixed it. When we started in Oakland they built it. I'm not used to building stadiums."

· Unlike Cable, who said he believes the Raiders could have made a playoff run last season, Davis sounded less optimistic.

"I do like to win Super Bowls but I'm also realistic," he said. "I know where we are. We can win the division. We have to do a little bit more to win the division but winning Super Bowls, no, I don't think this team is ready yet. We may be a year away from putting another good group together.

"Could we make a playoff run? We have a chance. I have to be realistic. I have to see what San Diego does. They get back a viable force immediately in Merriman. I have to take a look at Denver see what they do in the offseason. They got a new coach. Kansas City will have a new coach. That's where we are."


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