National Football League Commissioner Pete Rozelle said yesterday that Al Davis' accusation that the NFL blocked the Los Angeles Raiders from acquiring draft rights to John Elway and orchestrated the quarterback's trade to Denver was a "form of controlled paranoia."
Davis, managing general partner of the Raiders, made his charges hours before the Broncos obtained Elway in a trade with the Baltimore Colts Monday night. In return, the Colts received offensive guard Chris Hinton, Denver's No. 1 pick in the recent draft, plus reserve quarterback Mark Herrmann and Denver's No. 1 pick in 1984.
Also yesterday, the Raiders filed suit against the NFL for $57 million, partially on grounds that lawyers for the league had failed to notify the judge in the earlier antitrust case that false testimony had been given. In winning that suit against the NFL, the Raiders and the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum were awarded almost $49 million.
"He (Davis) wants his fans to think he had him (Elway), but then couldn't keep him because there was this conspiracy against him," Rozelle said in a telephone interview.
But Davis maintained again yesterday the Raiders had consummated a deal with the Chicago Bears, obtaining their first draft choice (No. 6 in the order of selection) in exchange for cornerback Ted Watts and safety Kenny Hill. The Raiders would have used that pick, plus their own in the first round and their first-round pick in 1984, to obtain the Colts' pick and draft Elway.
Elway, who made his mark at Stanford and attracted the eyes and checkbooks of every team in the NFL, said he did not want to play football in Baltimore and would play baseball for the New York Yankees unless a deal was made.
"We had a deal on Monday (April 25) before the Tuesday draft," Davis said.
However, Jim Finks, general manager of the Bears, denied, as he did Monday night, that a trade with the Raiders had been concluded.
"We were talking about Watts and (defensive end) Howie Long, not Watts and Hill," said Finks. "Watts and Hill for the No. 6 pick in the draft just doesn't make sense."
Finks said he told that to Steve Ortmayer, the Raiders' director of football operations who was negotiating for Davis. "Earlier in the day," Finks said, "Don Weiss (executive director of the NFL) called and said he'd heard we were about to make a trade with the Raiders. He asked that we let him know what happens.
"After my last discussion with Ortmayer, I called Weiss in New York. But he wasn't there. His secretary said Rozelle was; and I told Pete what had happened. At no time did the Raiders come back to me. Nothing was finalized.
"Davis is just trying to put everyone on the defensive."
Asked Davis, "Why is Rozelle talking to Finks? Why is Don Weiss talking to Finks?
"The recent Raider trial has destroyed the credibility of the commissioner. This is the same guy who tried to put the Raiders in receivership, who has already lost in court, and who has been in constant conflict with the truth. And now he's espousing innocence on these other matters."
Ortmayer said he offered Finks Watts or Long, not both, as well as another player from a group of three. "He (Finks) told me, 'I don't see why not.' We had a deal.
"Later, he then said he wanted both Watt and Long," said Ortmayer, who added that before negotiations with Finks broke off, the NFL had talked with the Bears "three or four times."
Finks explained that since Elway was to be subsequently involved, it was natural for the NFL to show an interest in negotiations.
"I wanted to see Elway in the league," Rozelle said. "I didn't want him to go to baseball or the USFL. I wanted to see him in the National Football League."
Rozelle said he was aware the Colts were dealing at the last minute with both the Bears and the Raiders and that he was monitoring those negoiations. If something could have been worked out so that Elway would be drafted by a team he wanted to play for, Rozelle said, the NFL wanted to bring him to New York for a press conference on the day of the draft.
"There is absolutely no truth to what Al calls a conspiracy, just the practicalities of trading," Rozelle said.
The Colts had hoped to trade Elway for three No. 1 picks--they would have settled for two No. 1s--in this year's draft to improve their winless record of 1982.
Instead, they wound up with a third-string quarterback, one No. 1 pick in 1984 and Hinton, who yesterday began negotiations with George Allen's Chicago Blitz of the USFL.
"We made a very substantial offer to Chris this afternoon," said Bruce Allen, Blitz general manager, after negotiating about three hours with the player's agent, Dick Lynn. "We had a very cordial meeting, we talked contract and numbers."
Allen said Hinton would meet Thursday with Colts owner Robert Irsay and the Blitz expected to see him again Friday. "It's a wait-and-see situation," Allen said.
Raiders' attorney Joseph L. Alioto said yesterday's suit is based on:
* A conspiracy to obstruct justice on the part of the NFL and attorneys from the law firm of O'Melveny and Myers based on suppression of allegedly perjured testimony by Jim Hardy, general manager of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
* Use in the league's public relations and lobbying efforts against the Raiders of approximately $700,000 in television monies normally due the team.
* Damages of $2.565 million (trebled to $7.695 million, as is the law in antitrust cases), be added to the previous damage assessment in which the Raiders were awarded approximately $35 million. The additional funds would cover losses the Raiders say they suffered last season.
The obstruction of justice claim alleges that Hardy, no friend of Davis, perjured himself during the damage phase of the antitrust trial. Hardy and attorneys for the NFL have emphatically denied the allegation.