In response to a federal antitrust lawsuit, a Raiders executive said Wednesday the club has rescinded a rent offer for the 2019 season to play at the Coliseum.
Raiders CEO Marc Badain told reporters at the NFL owners meetings in Dallas a $7.5 million offer was off the table, but gave no indication where the franchise will play its games.
“We do not have an an answer on where we’re going to play next year,” Badain said. “We have a number of options, and when we have an answer we’ll share it with you.”
The city of Oakland filed a federal antitrust lawsuit Tuesday against the Raiders, the NFL and its 31 other teams over their impending move to Las Vegas.
Raiders owner Mark Davis, asked by reporters about Oakland as well as other potential destinations such as San Diego, Santa Clara, San Antonio and Nevada, said “all options are open” although he expressed doubt about the possibility of playing on artificial surface at San Antonio’s Alamodome.
With that as a backdrop, it’s conceivable the Raiders’ Christmas Eve game against the Denver Broncos could be their last game at the Coliseum if they seek a temporary home in 2019 with their Las Vegas stadium scheduled to open in 2020.
“I’ve spent five years playing in that stadium,” Raiders quarterback Derek Carr said. “We have people talking trash about it and whatever they want, but I love it. It’s ours. It’s been fun. The fact that it could be the last one is crazy.”
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told reporters the league would need to know by “early January, February” where the Raiders were going to play in 2019 for scheduling purposes.
In an interview with Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com, Davis called the suit “meritless and malicious” and said, “My feeling is we’re 3-10 and we’re still relevant. It’s a legal issue and I’ll let the attorneys make further comment.”
With the NFL announcing Tuesday the Raiders would play one “home” game in either London or Mexico City, the team could be on the lookout for a nine-game (two preseason games, seven regular season games) stopover home site which would likely include remaining in their Alameda practice facility during the week.
Coach Jon Gruden, not surprisingly, wants to keep things as normal as possible next season but stressed he was focusing on Sunday’s road game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
“It’s always something every day here, isn’t it?” Gruden said. “I want to play in Oakland and I’m real sensitive like you would expect. It’s where I want to play. Let’s see what happens.”
Asked about the logistics of practicing in Alameda and possibly having what amounts to an entire season on the road, Gruden said, “I can’t even think about that. I don’t like to sit around and speculate. We’ve tried to get ready for the Bengals. I’m not the right guy to (answer) those questions. We’ve got enough issues to try and figure out ourselves.”
Carr described the situation as like being in college and moving on to the NFL.
“You don’t know where you’re going to be,” Carr said. “The good thing is you have experience, you know what team you’re going to be on. You know who your coach is going to be. You know the system. Where you’re going to play your home games, that’s just weird.
“It’s nothing no one wants to go through but there’s no book on how to do this. I’ll figure it out the best I can day by day.”
Wide receiver Jordy Nelson, who joined the Raiders as an unrestricted free agent after being released by the Green Bay Packers, has watched prominent players such as Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper got traded and most recently the firing of general manager Reggie McKenzie.
Now there’s talk the Raiders could be on the move a year early.
“It’s been a unique one, for sure,” Nelson said. “Something I’ve tried to do for years is control what I can control and so all that’s out of my hands. Just try to do my job and be prepared and we’ll see.
“Obviously we’ll be here the majority of the time next year, then if we have to go somewhere else to play a game, then we do. It will just be a different experience and we’ll handle that when it comes.”
It’s not a foregone conclusion the Raiders will leave, even if being sued. During an interview with ESPN.com a month ago, Davis said as much.
“Emotionally, I would say, why give them $3 million, $4 million, $5 million in rent that they’re going to turn around and sue me,” Davis told ESPN.com. “But at the same time, if they’ll have us, I won’t turn on the fans. I can’t do it … but if in fact this does get ugly, and can’t be bridged, we do have options.”