- The Washington Times - Friday, May 21, 2004

The Raiders’ mystique was built on an intimidating style and renegade players, but there also was a strong sense of camaraderie in the organization. The depth of that team feeling never has been better expressed than it is now with ex-Raider Steve Smith.

The once-burly fullback from Hyattsville’s DeMatha High School has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Former backfield mate Marcus Allen was one of the organizers of a recent fund-raiser that helped pay some of the medical expenses for Smith and other ailing ex-Raiders Mike Davis, David Humm, Reggie Kinlaw, Lindsay Mason, Jim Otto and Jack Tatum.

“When a person’s in a desperate situation like that, you really don’t ask questions — you just help,” Allen said. “It really illustrates what a team is all about. This team spans generations. Even if we didn’t play together, it’s one team. We care about each other.”

Otto and fellow Pro Football Hall of Famers Willie Brown, Mike Haynes, Art Shell and Gene Upshaw attended the event, along with former Raiders Todd Christensen, Tom Flores, Bo Jackson and Bill Romanowski and current players Tim Brown, Jerry Rice and Charles Woodson.

Upshaw, longtime executive director of the NFL Players Association, said the players are forming a corporation, the Silver and Black Fund, to raise funds for ailing ex-Raiders on a more formal basis than the current ad hoc setup. Upshaw hopes these efforts will become “a blueprint” for alumni in other cities. He already has been in touch with former Colts center Bill Curry about forming such a group in Baltimore.

A recent six-week course of alternative treatment in Reno, Nev., cost $20,000 that Smith’s insurance didn’t cover. Smith and his wife, Clie, an ex-Raiderette, regularly travel from their home in Dallas to see a specialist in Philadelphia. They’re also investigating the possibility that he was misdiagnosed and actually suffers from Lyme disease.

“Certainly, Smitty’s situation is the most crucial,” Brown said. “Nobody knows if he’s going to be able to be here this time next year.”

Smith, 39, was deeply gratified by the response from his fellow Raiders.

“I know the people I played with are good, quality people and my friends for life,” he told the Los Angeles Times in his now-halting speech. “But to feel the love from people that I never played with, but they were Raiders, is very overwhelming.”

Another title for a Pats QB? — Rohan Davey may be third string to Tom Brady in New England, but he has clinched a World Bowl berth for the Berlin Thunder with three weeks left in the NFL Europe season.

Davey leads NFL Europe with 14 touchdown tosses and a 109.1 passer rating. Frankfurt, also 6-1, is Berlin’s likely World Bowl opponent. The Galaxy, led by former Washington Redskins running back Skip Hicks, can make it official by beating the Thunder tomorrow. Hicks, now with Cincinnati, leads NFL Europe with 458 rushing yards and nine touchdowns.

Less Deuce? — The New Orleans Saints have asked Deuce McAllister to shed 10 to 15 pounds before training camp in hopes that the lighter weight will reduce the wear on the running back’s legs and add a step to his breakaway speed. McAllister weighed 238 pounds last season.

Couch could stay put — When Cleveland signed expensive free agent quarterback Jeff Garcia in March, Tim Couch’s days with the Browns seemed over. No backup is worth $7.6million, especially one who wasn’t sure of beating out Kelly Holcomb to start even if Garcia hadn’t arrived. However, not only do the Browns have more than $2million in cap room for veterans, Holcomb might not be recovered from February shoulder surgery until August. Coach Butch Davis likely won’t feel comfortable cutting Couch until he knows Holcomb is healthy.

Couch, who was given permission to shop for a new team, continues to reject Green Bay’s $3million, two-year offer ($1million to sign) to back up Brett Favre and have the inside track on one day replacing the 34-year-old legend. Cleveland’s other backups are fourth-rounder Luke McCown and Nate Hybl, who recently was benched in NFL Europe.

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