Taking Flak (cont.)
When the doctor looked at the X-ray, he looked at me, then looked at the technician and told him, "Now go take a picture of his right leg."
"That is his right leg."
"No, it's not. Take it again," Doc told him.
The doctor stood there as the technician took another X-ray and when he looked at it again, he said, "I'll be damned. You're healed. The bone looks great."
He told me to start some light workouts and stay away from impact stuff. I started working out almost all day, every day. Two weeks later, I was running three miles a day, cutting in both directions on my leg, dropping back, making throws. I went to Al and asked if I could be activated and get back with the team. He told me to talk with Tom Flores. I went to Tom's office and he told me to check with Al.
"Wait a minute, Tom. What's going on here?"
"Well, it's not my call, Dan," he told me.
I went back to Al and asked him why I couldn't be activated and he said, "We just can't do it right now."
We were winning. Plunkett wasn't playing great, but we were winning and since everyone knew Plunkett was a pretty fragile guy, Al didn't want Plunkett looking over his shoulder. I told Tom, "I didn't ask for my starting job. I didn't ask for anything but to get back with the team and start practicing and get ready in case something happened to Plunkett and you need me."
Al never said a damn word about our little locker-room exchange. He never had to. I was s--- to him because somebody else was winning and I didn't put up with his bulls---. I just threw up my hands. I totally retreated from the team and started drinking more, harder, and more often. We went to Philadelphia three weeks later and just like every week, I went through the same drill. I asked Tom to activate me. He said no. It was as if I was dead to all of them. I was on an island.
Ted Hendricks brought a bottle of whiskey on the plane to Philly and I drank almost the whole bottle by myself. I was drunk and pissed off. As we got off the plane, somehow I wound up standing right behind Al. He turned around and I stared him right in the face. I put up both my fists like an old bare-knuckle fighter, did a little Muhammad Ali-shuffle dance and told him, "Hey, m-----f-----, activate me."
That didn't set too well. Al got in my face and guys had to grab me and pull me away from Al. He started cussing me out and called me a worthless drunk. I retreated even further after that. I was a lost soul. I had never been in that position before in my life. I never could control much in my life, but I always could prove myself on the field and suddenly I wasn't even allowed to step foot on the field. I wasn't a part of the team. I didn't feel a part of anything. I just drowned myself in whiskey. I regretted my decision with Bum Phillips. I wondered if Bum really wanted to keep me at all, or had I not said anything, would Bum have made the decision to trade me anyway? I drank most all day and went out every night. It was an embarrassment. I knew I was wrong. There was no justification for the drinking I did. But I knew what I was feeling and I was miserable. I felt as if I was losing my life.
Tom called me into his office and asked what the hell I could have been thinking challenging Al like I did in front of the entire team.
"I'm sorry, Tom. I lost my head, but I'm pissed off that I can't play. Yeah, I had too much to drink and I broke training. What are you going to do, deactivate me?"
"Just take it easy, Dan, we're winning right now. You know how it is with the boss," Tom told me.
I said, "Ask anyone that's ever played with me. I'm all about the team, Tom. I'm not asking for my job back. I want to help. I want some reps. I want some practice. I'm sitting around with my thumb up my a-- and you're going with a rookie quarterback backing up Plunkett?"
Tom was an OK guy, but I didn't appreciate that he didn't go to bat for me. He knew I should have been activated. Marc Wilson had never taken a snap in the NFL and that's the guy they wanted backing up Plunkett? I was healthy. I was making every throw. Someone finally challenged Al on the little horses -- games he liked to play and I got ostracized for it. I was blacklisted. Other players started noticing it. They knew Al was all about beating the other guy and right now I was that other guy. He wanted to beat me down. Al started spreading all kinds of rumors about me around the league, too -- that I had drug problems, that I was damaged. The incident on the plane was my death certificate as far as Al Davis was concerned and I never was allowed to go on another road-trip until we got to the Super Bowl.
We made the playoffs as a wild-card team. Our first game was against the Oilers at the Coliseum and that only made me feel more detached. My entire life I had been a part of a team and I never was more proud than to put on that Oilers uniform with those guys. I screwed up leaving Houston and I screwed up in Oakland. By the time the Oilers got to Oakland, I had been drinking hard, going out every night. The night before the game, I went to the Hyatt Regency where the Oilers were staying. I still wasn't activated. Snake came up to me and asked how I was handling Al Davis. I told him, "Your boy's an a--hole."
He just grinned. The Oilers were cordial, but they had a game to play. The night before the game, I met Bum and Carl for drinks. Naturally, I'd already had more than a couple of drinks earlier. As I walked out of the lobby bar, I ran into Dale Robertson, the writer with whom I tussled before the Steelers AFC title game the year before. And I just lashed out. I screamed at him and grabbed him. Another writer from Houston, John McClain, grabbed one arm trying to pull Dale away and I grabbed the other. Dale was getting stretched, screaming, "Goddammit, this is a new leather jacket!"
I chased Dale into the parking lot.
"You're the reason I got run out of town, you jack---."
I never caught him and I thought, that's real impressive, Dante.
I was seething. I sped off, drunk, and had a wreck on the way home. I ran into a tree, banging my nose against the steering wheel and peeling back a chunk of skin that needed 41 stitches. I sat there with blood all over my face, feeling like an a-- and all alone. An ambulance took me to the hospital and the police easily could have charged me with DWI, but they didn't.
When we got to New Orleans for the Super Bowl, I was at a bar with a writer for the New York Times when someone recognized me and asked, "What are you?"
I turned toward him and said, "Out of control and dangerous."
The headline in the story the writer did about me said, "Drinking Dan Is Raiders' Sad, Bad Boy."
We beat the Eagles to win the Super Bowl. After all those years working toward it, dreaming about it, cherishing the thought of winning a Super Bowl, I stood on the sideline in New Orleans the entire game half-drunk, wishing I was anywhere but there. I wasn't a part of it. I probably should have been a bigger man than Al Davis. I shouldn't have resorted to the bottle, but it was all I had. I didn't draw a sober breath the whole week I was in New Orleans. I was so alone, not even the guys in the locker-room wanted to be seen talking with me, because Al might find out about it. After the game, I walked up to Plunkett and shook his hand.
"Jimmy I just want to tell you, I'm happy for you. I got injured and you did a great job. I'm glad one of us won the Super Bowl. Congratulations."
He was very short and quick with me, "OK, thanks."
When I got my Super Bowl ring, I gave it away to a charity auction.
I busted my a-- before training camp in 1981, even though I knew Al never would play me again and would do everything he could to trade me. He hated me and I hated him, it was obvious to everyone in the organization. I knew I would get my chance in camp because there wasn't much of a choice but for Al to play me in the preseason. He couldn't play only Plunkett or Wilson the entire preseason. And I still was on the roster, so I knew even if it was just the preseason, I could show my coaches and teammates -- and other teams -- just how full of s--- Al was the year before.
Two months before training camp opened, I rode in a charity bike-a-thon for City Of Hope in Newport Beach. It was just a fundraiser like so many golf tournaments, tennis tournaments and other events I always enjoyed. They put me on a racing bike and I clipped my feet in. It was an easy ride, but early in the ride as I turned with other cyclists, my front wheel got caught up with someone's bike and I flipped and crashed. I vaulted over the handlebars and landed on my throwing shoulder. It was a third-degree separation and fracture of my collarbone. Once again, I went to Cedars Sinai for surgery and they removed a piece of my right collarbone. While I was recovering at the hospital, I thought, what the hell else can happen? Now I had the shoulder to deal with on top of my ribs and nerve damage. The Raiders placed me on the physically unable to perform list when training camp began, but I busted my a-- every day on the field, in the training room, working out. All I wanted and needed for my parents, my daughter and my future, was to pass the physical. Al tried everything to embarrass me.
Two weeks into camp, without any notice or time to stretch and loosen up, Al walked up to me and said, "You're throwing today."
I quickly loosened my shoulder and arm as best I could and began throwing routes to Bobby Chandler. I threw darts. With Al and all the coaches watching, I threw tight spirals and they were getting there quick. I threw ins, outs, curls, come-backs, deep-outs. My arm was killing me, like it was on fire from my fingertips, all the way up my arm and down my ribs, but you never would have known it. I almost bit my tongue, trying to hide the pain. The blank expression on Al's face never changed as I made every throw. He just watched with his arms crossed, then turned to Tom and said, "OK, activate him." And he walked away
I did it. I guaranteed the next three years of my contract. Al was pissed-off and still isolated me from the team, but I didn't give a s---. I went through the rest of the camp still mostly alone, since everybody knew Al was blackballing me. He didn't play me in the first preseason game, or the second, or the third. He waited until the final preseason game to play me, when we played New England. We were down 21-3 when Plunkett came out. As soon as I got into the game, I started picking them apart. I had a hell of a game. I brought us all the way back, threw a couple of touchdowns and gave us a lead, before they took the lead back. I got into the huddle with a big smile on my face on our last drive and said, "Let's go, boys, let's win this thing."
Gene Upshaw looked at me and said, "Look at the kid, trying to win a preseason game."
"Hey, I feel like a kid, Gene. It's been a long time. It's fun to be back."
He told me, "Nice to have you back, man."
I drove us deep into their territory and hit Cliff Branch right in the chest on a crossing route, but the ball popped up and Steve Nelson intercepted the ball. I got to the locker-room still feeling pretty good about how I played. Raymond Chester came up to me and said, "You looked good. You haven't missed a beat."
It didn't matter that I was blacklisted, a lot of guys came up and congratulated me. The next day I was stretching on the practice field, when Al Davis came up to me, pointed at me and said, "You're cut."
I was stunned. He waited until the last possible moment, when most NFL rosters already were set, and then he cut me.
"What? Are you s---ting me?"
"Nope. You're cut. Get out of here."
I told him, "Well, I'll get you the address where you can send my checks."
"F--- you," he said. "I'm not paying you, Pastorini."
He waved his hand as if shooing me like a dog, turned and walked away.
As he walked away, I shouted, "We'll see about that, a--hole."
I called my agent Tommy Vance and we decided to sue the Raiders and Davis for breach of contract. It was clear what his plan was all along. He kept me around as long as he could. I was one of the highest-paid quarterbacks in football and he was spreading rumors about me. Nobody was going to touch me. He hated my guts because I didn't cower to his a-- or kiss his ring. Money had nothing to do with it. The thing that pissed him off the most was he wanted to beat me in a personal war.