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However, Harper's sprinter's speed, 6'3" frame and increased toughness make him, in tandem with Irvin, almost impossible to shut down. His competition with Irvin is friendly, though he knows that in Dallas, Irvin will always get first billing. "If they're throwing the ball to me five times a game and Michael 10," Harper says with a laugh, "Michael wants it 12 times to my three."
A startling piece of news emerged recently during the trial involving former Patriot owner Billy Sullivan, who is suing the NFL, claiming that the league denied him the opportunity to sell 49% of his team in 1987. He says that such a sale would have saved the Pats from bankruptcy and that ultimately he was forced to unload the club at a fire-sale price to Victor Kiam. Early in the trial Kansas City owner Lamar Hunt disclosed that for several years when Ralph Wilson owned the American Football League Bills, he also owned 25% of the Oakland Raiders. In 1967 Wilson's Bills traded quarterback Daryle Lamonica to the Raiders. Lamonica turned around Oakland's passing game. Over the next three years he threw for 89 touchdowns, and the Raiders, who had been mediocre, went 37-4-1.
Wilson acknowledges that the deal sounds fishy, but he explains that in 1961, the second year of the AFL, Oakland majority owner Wayne Valley told him that he was going to have to dissolve the Raiders after the season because of heavy losses. "We had one team near bankruptcy," says Wilson, "and I was afraid that if a second team, like Oakland, folded, the whole league might go down."
Wilson told Valley that he would try to find an investor to buy a quarter of the Raiders, but he failed. Instead Wilson gave Valley $400,000, and in return Valley gave Wilson a 25% stake in his team. "It was not done as an investment," says Wilson. "It was done to keep the league going. There was no ulterior motive, like trying to control two teams. I never had anything to do with the operation of the Raiders, and I never attended their stockholder meetings."
In March 1967 the Bills' brass knew that the 25-year-old, rifle-armed Lamonica would soon succeed Jack Kemp as the starter. But Buffalo coach Joe Collier wanted Oakland end Art Powell for his offense and suggested dealing Lamonica, end Glenn Bass and a second-round draft pick for Powell, quarterback Tom Flores and third-and fifth-round picks. "I didn't like it," Wilson said, "but I didn't second-guess the coaches. Of course, I was sick for years after the trade."
It remains the worst trade the Bills have ever made. Powell lasted one season, and Flores two. The Bills went south, while Lamonica took Oakland to Super Bowl II in January 1968. Wilson sold his shares back to the Raiders before Oakland entered the merged NFL in 1970. The NFL prohibits cross-ownership of franchises. "It's false that I ever made a decision to help the Raiders at our expense," says Wilson. "I was trying to help the Bills kick the hell out of the Raiders."
GAME OF THE WEEK
The Rams' Jim Everett, the league's lowest-rated quarterback, walked into the Astrodome to face the Oilers on Sunday amid rumors that teammates were questioning his toughness and calling him Chrissy Everett behind his back. To make matters worse, three members of Houston's ravenous front four have more than 60 career sacks. So Everett threw for 316 yards and three touchdowns, with no interceptions, and was not sacked. The final score: 28-13, Rams....