NFL Labor Peace is Imperative for Oakland Raiders' Al Davis

Justin Smith@smittstylesCorrespondent IFebruary 15, 2011

Al Davis' Mind is a Sharp as Ever; But his Body is Not
Al Davis' Mind is a Sharp as Ever; But his Body is NotJustin Sullivan/Getty Images

Al Davis is a living legend, an icon of both the NFL and California who has influenced the growth of the game of football as a coach, personnel man, and general manager before taking all those hats and more and moving into the owner's box.

Al Davis has stood up for the little guy, himself, his team, his city and his beliefs. He's sued the NFL; he's been sued by the NFL. In short, he is not one to shy away from controversy or tough negotiations, and he's certainly not one to give in.

The Raiders owner remains one of the most astute and knowledgeable football men on the planet. Many of the team's recent draft choices, free agent moves, and coaching hires have been met with a mixture of skepticism and head-scratching, but that doesn't change the fact that Al's mind is as sharp as ever.

It's his body that is failing him. 

I don't profess to know his health status, nor am I a medical professional, but as his appearance deteriorates with each passing press conference, I am making what I feel is a safe assumption. Al Davis does not look healthy.

That, I believe, has been the motivation behind some of the more interesting moves that have not panned out. That is why he has shown no patience with coaches this decade; that is why he's risked it all on draft choices like JaMarcus Russell. He wants to win before he can no longer enjoy it.

Al Davis has made it no secret that he has no plans to step down from the Raiders. He's maintained that he'll own and run this team until he either can no longer do so due to health, or until the Raiders win two more Super Bowls. Anything short of those two factors, and we can expect to see Al in the booth.

He was instrumental in getting the previous CBA (the one that is now expiring) signed. His relationship with commissioner Paul Tagliabue and NFLPA President Gene Upshaw was a catalyst in ensuring labour peace until now.

But Al is tired. He has no desire to get involved in these negotiations, which is very telling.

From the USFL anti-trust lawsuit, to the most recent CBA, Davis has always heavily involved himself in the inner workings of the league. Many well-respected people consider him one of the greatest influences over the NFL's growth and metamorphosis into today's juggernaut.

Yet, at a time when he has more at stake than ever before due to his failing health, he is stepping back.

Once again this is purely speculation, but Al Davis likes to stir things up. He likes to be involved; he likes to have his voice heard. His ego and pride make it so.

So why step back now? It can only be that he is not physically capable of throwing himself all in as he is known to do. Those who have read about Davis and know his personality know that if he can't go all in, he won't go in at all.

Al maintains his desire to win, but his desperation to do so quickly has often set the Raiders back in the last ten years or so.

Whether it was throwing a bunch of money at square-peg-in-a-round-hole players like DeAngelo Hall or Larry Brown, or thinking a superstar like Randy Moss would instantly make the team relevant, or trying to relive glory with Art Shell, Davis has made some dubious decisions, but you cannot debate they were all about winning.

They were just about winning NOW, with no emphasis on building a team, which was imperative after half the squad retired or moved on after losing the Super Bowl in 2002.

Davis tried to reload rather than rebuild, and despite the failings of that approach, continued it throughout the 2000s because he knows his time to enjoy success is becoming more and more limited by the day.

That is why these negotiations mean so much to him. He helped put the current deal in place, and he knew it was a house of cards that needed to be renegotiated. And here we are; but if this season were to be lost, it is realistic that Davis may never get to see his Raiders play again, and he knows it.

That disposition, coupled with the ego and pride that consume Davis, explains why so many of his recent moves in Oakland have seemed desperate.

Because they were.

If he were truly physically healthy and able, then he'd be at the forefront with the owners at the negotiating table and telling Jerry Richardson to shut his mouth. But he is not, so he feels compelled to tell the media that he won't be involving himself in the negotiations this time around. What he doesn't tell them is why.

As Davis' mother lived to be over 100 years old, and Davis himself is known for his will and fight, this could all be a moot point; but after seeing and listening to him repeatedly the last few years, I feel confident (and take no joy) in the fact that he is not a well man.

Life is cruel. It is a shameful piece of irony that because of his failing health Davis needs labour peace more than ever, yet as a result of this failing health he is unable to assist in making it happen.