Rimington's inability to handle the inside stunts—"We put in a lot of tackle-tackle games to take advantage of his inexperience," said L.A. Defensive End Howie Long, who switched to tackle in the four-man line—underscored the grumbling that was heard in Cincy when six-year veteran Center Blair Bush was traded to Seattle. The theory: When you're a playoff-caliber team, you don't trade away a solid guy if his replacement isn't as good as he is. In other words, no on-the-job training.
No one's saying that Rimington won't be an effective NFL player someday, but on Sunday, deprived of the anchor in the middle, the Bengals' offensive line came apart. Raider Defensive End Lyle Alzado, who always had difficulty against All-Pro Tackle Anthony Munoz, got two sacks. "The first time I've ever had a decent game against him," Alzado said. Missed assignments left the feeling that a steady diet of 4-2-nickel was something the Bengals weren't ready for. "We'd been preparing for the 3-4," Left Guard Dave Lapham said. "We had to throw it all out."
In July, when Cincinnati's offensive coordinator, Lindy Infante, signed to coach Jacksonville in the USFL in '84, he was promptly fired—and sued—by the Bengals. Many players felt that the club should have kept Infante around for a few weeks anyway, because it was his offense they'd be using.
"The players see things from a very narrow point of view," says Mike Brown, the Bengals' assistant general manager. "Part of his mind would have been here, part of it with his new employer. Do you really want someone like that on your staff?"
Nevertheless, there was no Infante in the press box Sunday to make adjustments in Infante's offense when the Raiders gave it fits. Anderson had a typically high percentage day, completing 26 of 35 passes for 226 yards, but nothing much got done. It was dink stuff, gimmes, in a game that was decided early. He got sacked four times and hammered a lot after he had gotten the ball off, and afterward, his elbow skinned, his ribs sore and aching, he moved slowly and painfully in the locker room. "We had opportunities to attack; we made too many mistakes," he said. "The Millen interception? I just didn't see him. I thought we could get on top of them, but we just didn't work it out.
"You know," he added, pausing for a moment, "I think it's the first time I ever lost my helmet on a sack."
There are 10 Cincy players who are in either the last year or the option year of their contracts. Tight End Dan Ross will be playing for the USFL Boston Breakers next year, and Wide Receiver Cris Collinsworth will jump to the Tampa Bay Bandits in '85. Every day new rumors circulate about which of the other Bengals will be joining Ross and Collinsworth in the new league. The names of former Bengals come back—Lemar Parrish, Bill Bergey, Coy Bacon, Charlie Joiner, the Pro Bowlers who were traded away from the Bengals after contract disputes. The feeling is that the old Paul Brown hard line on veterans' salaries is harder than ever. In a strange, rambling address at Friday's Meet Your Bengals Luncheon, the elder Brown, who is Cincinnati's general manager and part owner, did nothing to dispel that belief.
Brown's message was addressed more to the players on the dais than the fans in the room. Its essence was that there's a new collective bargaining agreement that sets salary standards and that's the way it's going to be. "We play by the rules, and we expect others to do so without hard feelings," he said. "So be in the spirit and play with a full heart."
Now it's difficult to translate all this into performance on the field. When Raider Linebacker Ted Hendricks stripped the ball away from rookie Running Back Stanley Wilson in the third quarter, ending Cincinnati's last hope of getting back in the game, was it because Bengal hearts weren't full enough? When Cincy Linebacker Reggie Williams committed a third down roughing-the-passer foul to launch the Raiders' first drive, which covered 84 yards, was it because his mind was on the higher salaries being paid around the league? Did the Bengals have trouble getting things going offensively because Infante wasn't there in the press box?
The Raiders haven't had such headaches. Buoyed by the promise of a $34.6 million damages award in their suit against the NFL, they can afford to be generous. They've always been one of the higher paying teams anyway; Davis says that veterans who perform well for the silver and black will have their contracts automatically upgraded after two years. This year he claims to have the highest payroll in the NFL—$7.2 million, an average of $138,500 for each of the 52 full-time players under contract.