From the men who played for him and the man who worked with and sometimes battled, the Bengals responded Saturday to the death of Raiders icon Al Davis.
Bengals president Mike Brown and Davis were viewed as allies in recent years because they dated back to an American Football League before the merger with the NFL and they both operated small-market franchises. Davis phoned his fellow owners frequently and Brown was no different. He last spoke to Davis within the month and issued the following statement through Bengals public relations.
"Al was a fiery individualist, an important part of pro football—the AFL and NFL—for almost 50 years. His teams had times of great success, and he was heavily involved both on and off the field. I admired the achievements the Raiders attained under Al.
"Personally, I was fond of him. He battled with the NFL, and a lot of us wished that had not been where things went, but under all that was a person I respected. It saddens me to hear that he is gone."
Also offering messages were Bengals linebacker Thomas Howard and quarterback Bruce Gradkowski. The Raiders drafted Howard in the second round in 2006 and he played there through last year in 62 starts:
"He was an icon, a legend, a pioneer. I'm honored that he chose to draft me. It was a great pleasure being a part of Raider Nation, part of all the great teams and players that put on that Silver and Black. You don't know what it means to be a Raider until you are a Raider, and that was his team. He spoke to you not just as an owner but as a coach. He was very hands-on. You felt his presence, and he really cared for you and your family."
Gradkowski played in Oakland the previous two seasons (he engineered a fourth-quarter win over the Bengals in 2009) and made eight starts:
"This is a sad day for Raider Nation and the NFL. But it's a day to think about all Mr. Davis did for football. He was truly one of a kind. I respect him for the way he approached the game, for how much he loved it. I'm fortunate to have worked with Mr. Davis for a short period, and I thank him for giving me the opportunity. Playing in Oakland was a great experience for me, something I'll always remember."