Al Davis did it his own way

The NFL stopped for a moment Saturday.

Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis has died. He was 82 years old.

There is going to be a lot said and even more written about the Raiders' owner as we prepare to kick off another NFL weekend.

Soak it all in. Use any word you want to describe Davis: legend, pioneer, outlaw, renegade. Each applies. He will never be duplicated or forgotten.

Davis did it all his way. He didn’t always make friends in the NFL over the years, but he earned a lot of respect. Expect the tributes to fly in faster than a classic Raiders wide receiver.

He fought wars with the league, other owners and even some of his coaches and players. He was a difficult man to deal with for a lot of people over the years.

But he was also a caring man who bled Silver and Black.

Sadly, this news isn’t a shock. Davis had been in poor health for some time. He had been using a walker for years. He did not travel to Buffalo for the Raiders' Week 2 game against the Bills.

But make no mistake -- Al Davis will be in Houston with his team Sunday as the Raiders try to boost their record to 3-2. The Raiders were Davis’ life. They're what he lived for.

The man famous for coining the phrase “Just win, baby” lived his life that way. I’m truly convinced Al Davis cared about nothing other than seeing his team win. It is bittersweet that his death comes at a time when his team is finally showing signs of resurgence. If the Raiders push their way into the playoffs for the first time in nine years, it will be because of Davis’ work. There’s a lot of talent in Oakland and every player on that roster is there because Davis picked him.

Despite his declining health and advanced age, Davis ran this team nearly up until the time of his death. He picked the players in the last draft and he even negotiated most of the contracts himself. Many agents have told me of their intense conversations with Davis as recently as last month. He worked every day trying to make the team a winner.

The Raiders were always and will forever be Al Davis’ team.

There will be questions about what will happen with the Raiders. Everything will be sorted out. What is important now is that we take time to reflect on a man who changed football.

The Raiders flew to Houston late Friday and awoke to the news of Davis’ death Saturday morning. A team spokesman said it's a very “difficult" time for the team.

First-year Raiders coach Hue Jackson loved Davis. He called him “Coach Davis.” Jackson relished the chance Davis gave him to coach an NFL team and he relished the opportunity to pick Davis’ brain.

Raiders players also loved Davis. He had his players’ backs and he often paid them handsomely. Several Raiders have been the highest paid at their positions in recent years because Davis valued them so much.

This is not just a sad day in Oakland. It’s a sad day for the entire sports world. We lost a legend, a pioneer, an outlaw and a renegade.