By Mike Freeman, CBS Sports NFL Insider

OAKLAND (CBS Sports) — The first time I met Al Davis was the early 1990s. I had just started covering the NFL and asked for an interview. He had refused for months and then granted a brief one. Some of the first words out of his mouth were these: “Don’t believe every lie the league office says about me.”

For much of his brilliant, chaotic and unreal life, Al Davis was at war. He fought commissioners. He fought other owners. He fought cities. He tussled with mayors and politicians and his own players. He earned a reputation as a crazy man.

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But for those of you who don’t know, do not let that deter from what Davis did. The NFL you see today? The multi-billion dollar league? The great league? The biggest, the baddest? Al Davis helped to build it. In many ways, it can be argued, few were bigger at making the sport what it is now.

He modernized the passing game. He made marketing a part of being an owner. He hired minorities to be coaches when other owners refused.

Al Davis was, in short, a brilliant man.

Never forget that. Never, ever forget that.

(Copyright 2011 CBS San Francisco. All rights reserved.)

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