Monthly Archives: April 2013

Raiders 2013 Schedule

Raiders 2013 Schedule

Raiders 2013 Schedule

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They Call Me Asassin, by Lester Hayes 1979 Part V

Raiders #53 Bill Romanowski

Raiders #53 Bill Romanowski

In 1977 I had played out my option and was looking for more money with the next contract. To be perfectly honest, I did have some loyalty to the Oakland Raiders, but I couldn’t pay my bills and completely establish myself for the future with that loyalty. I wanted money… more money.

Al Davis started our contract talks by trying to cut my pay. When it came time to explain his reasons, he had thousands, and if I had give him the time, I’m sure Al would have come up with a million reasons why he wanted to cut my pay.  But to me, my future in the NFL was a matter of green and nothing else.  Al still cited incidents during games when I missed a tackle or failed to knock someone out. He started with a game several years ago when we were beating the hell out of Cincinnati, and late in the game Archie Griffen got by me and scored.  At the time, I was a little tired, and lazy, too. That touchdown had no bearing on the game but Al still thought I should have blasted Archie.  From there he verbally replayed almost every game of my career and pointed out situations in which I had not done the job the Oakland Raiders were paying me to do.  The whole thrust of the talks with Al centered around the notion that I was not hitting like I did earlier in my career. Al Davis was telling me that I was paid to be a war head, and anyone who came near me should get knocked into hell. Al left with the impression that my only marketable talents in professional football were those of an intimidator. My job with the Raiders was that of a paid assassin. Well, so be it.2002Raiders 001

I have been part of the NFL since 1971 and the only consistent thing I have ever seen in the officiating was the ability to be inconsistent. Some of the officials’ mistakes can be passed off as human error, and I can overlook and sympathize with those persona misjudgements. However, when individual bias is injected into the officiating, I am greatly disturbed. Swann could jump up and take a swing at me because everyone in the world knows that I could physically break him apart.  Therefore Swann is the good guy and I am the villain. So go ahead and kick the villain in the testicles, spit on him, slug him, call him dirty names, and the official will only break up the scene. But if the villain slaps a running back in the head or fights back, it becomes a situation requiring penalties and fines. To me, that is all a bunch of crap and I don’t like the idea of being considered the villain.  I am simply an athlete who is paid to hit.  Lynn Swann is an athlete who is paid to catch passes and score touchdowns. If it’s wrong for me to slug anyone during the course of a game, the it’s wrong for Swann and any other player in the NFL to take that type of action.  The first rule of officiating must be consistency.  When we arrive at a fair and consistent enforcement of the rules, the safety conditions and the game itself will greatly improve.


They Call Me Asassin, by Lester Hayes 1979 Part IV

Raiders Head Coach John Madden

Raiders Head Coach John Madden

I’m going to start out by talking about my ex-coach John Madden. John was forced into retirement by ulcers and nothing else. I know the rumor had it that John was asked to step down because of the bleak 9 and 7 season  the Raiders went through in 1978, but that’s not true. For health reasons alone, John was unable to continue coaching.  He could deal with people on any level, and the Raiders’ success and development of their personnel offer proof of that statement. Look down our roster to see what I mean. Many of the Raiders were a band of misfits, rogues, and ruffians who couldn’t get along with their own mothers until Madden took over.  Madden had a way of taking the undesirables and turning them into a functioning machine that gave him the highest winning percentage of all the coaches in the NFL. There have been coaches who have won more total games than John but none have attained a win-loss ratio as impressive as his.

John had the ability to communicate with anyone on the team, even Skip Thomas. I don’t mean to slight Skip. Its just that Skip had different ideas, but John was able to understand and love the man.  Skip is a tremendous athlete, but most teams would have given up on him a long time ago.

Hank Stram, however, believed in the biggest players he could find. Hank’s idea was to first find the giants and then teach them to develop speed and quickness. Well, speed and quickness can be developed to a degree, but you don’t take a lumbering 6 foot 10 tight end and make him capable of 4.5 speed. Stram was a great coach and a very successful man, but I feel that his teams needed a little more balance.  Stram had some great players and won a Super Bowl, but I believe he could have improved by looking for a little more overall team speed and quickness.

Super Bowl Winning Ball 1977 Fred Biletnikoff

Super Bowl Winning Ball 1977 Fred Biletnikoff

After eight or nine years in the NFL, you have a tendency to start counting your stitches, bumps and bruises and looking at a future day when your body will start to slow down a a little and physical exercise will not be a necessary way of life.  When that happens, I know that arthritis and bursitis will settle into my bones and joints an yesterday’s hits on wide receivers will become tender and stiff areas of my body. Humans were just not built with the contact of professional football in mind. And regardless of all the conditioning a football player does, there is still the chance of serious injury and still a price that will be paid during old age. Even now, it gets more difficult for me to get out of bed for days after a game. I know that is simply a combination of the aging process and football’s minor injuries catching up with me.  Still, though, it’s the type of work I have chosen and the price I must pay, and hopefully, when my NFL career is over, I’ll still be able to stand upright and walk like a human being.


They Call Me Asassin, by Lester Hayes 1979 Part III

2002Raiders 046An Oakland Raiders training camp is hardly a stalag of sweat and torture.  Most of our practice sessions are held in a relaxed atmosphere. Some people think our system is questionable, but look at the game results.  The Raiders win more games than any other team in professional football, and that is a fact.

Al Davis started training camp by saying, “Pride and poise! That’s the answer! You’re Oakland Raiders wherever you go; whatever you do. Anybody who is ashamed of that can get on a plane and leave right now. You’re here to win! win! Win!”

In Denver we always stayed at the Continental Hotel and we always beat Denver and we always won our division championship.  I guess the Denver management has some superstitious blood too, because they took over the Continental and moved us out. The team never really liked staying there anyway, but Al Davis insisted that we beat Denver because we stayed at the Continental.  Last season Denver beat us twice and won the Division title for the first time in the history of their club. Al Davis went around scowling at everyone and saying “I told you so!”

I think that a perfect quarterback would have Kenny Stabler’s mind inside Terry Bradshaw’s body. I’m not taking a slap at Bradshaw’s mental capacity; it’s just a fact that Stabler is a physical wreck.  I admit, in a way, that I am also trying to say that Ken is a much better thinker than Bradshaw. Stabler is the type of quarterback who will look the situation over and remain cool through the heat. Bradshaw will make up his mind too quickly and sometimes be forced into mistakes.  I do believe the man is fast becoming one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL.Raiders 021

I would advise those of you who have never tried to tackle an Earl Campbell to be careful should the opportunity arise. Actually, I have always believed in seizing opportunity and I used to look forward to meeting Earl on the field of battle. Now, I believe it is sometimes better to surround opportunity rather than try to seize it.  Earl has as much balance and speed as OJ Simpson.  And he can be overpoweringly abusive or he can be very elusive.

Anytime I hear the term “defensive back”, I immediately think of our cornerback, Willie Brown. I guess that’s because I first heard about Willie when I was playing high school football, and then again when I played in college, and ever sine I’ve played in the NFL. Willie admits to thirty-eight or thirty-nine years, but sometimes I think he’s much older.Then, there are times when Willie swings into action and I think he is younger than he admits to being. Willie is one of those remarkable athletes who times seems to forget about, or at least it passes a little slower for them.  I think that now it has become a matter of experience rather than quickness, but still Willie Brown can stay with the youngest and quickest receivers.


They Call Me Asassin, by Lester Hayes 1979 Part II

953632Personally, I play every game hard and violently, but when I go against the Pittsburgh Steelers a different style of aggression seems to come over me. In fact, an intensely aggressive mood sweeps through the entire Raider team. The same feeling oversomes the Pittsburgh players as they ready themselves to go against us.  Both Pittsburgh and Oakland consider themselves the best in professional football, and when we meet we spend a violent Sunday afternoon trying to convince the other team of that point.  With stakes so high I would rather get burned ten times against the New York Giants than once against the Steelers.

My collision with Lynn Swann was, I admit, premeditated. I saw him coming across the middle for a pass, and even though Bradshaw had thrown the ball in a different direction, Swann was still a fair and legal target. I don’t want Lynn Swann or anyone in my area trying to catch passes. Most receivers know I earn my money and reputation with devastating hits. I don’t care whether the receiver is just a decoy or the primary target, I’m going to make him pay the price. A receiver needs concentration to succeed. If by using demoralizing hits I can get the receiver to start thinking about me instead of catching the ball, I will win the battle.

Swann was a legal target, and so was I. What I mean is that on that particular play Lynn Swann could have blocked me. On the other hand, I had the right to take him out of the play. I admit it was full speed, and I did hit him high with a Hook, but still, it was legal.

Pittsburgh Steelers are far from passive and they are not easily intimidated. Then again the Raiders have a reputation for being a rather surly bunch that thrives on brutal contact themselves. When two football giants such as the Steelers and the Raiders get together, there isn’t any backing down on either side.HallofFame2011 063

The game started the way I figured–violent and brutal. When playing against the Steelers or any of the physical teams, one comes to expect solid contact and flaring tempers, but somehow this game immediately started getting out of hand.

Later in the game I spotted Lynn Swann non-chalantly roaming over the middle, and I drew a bead on his rib cage. But then I saw George Atkinson homing in on Lynn, and with one quick swipe of a forearm, George sort of pulled Lynn down using a club-like action across the head and side of the neck. Lynn went down and George moved in toward the ball carrier.  The shot to Swann was by no means an overpowering one.  It was nothing, absolutely nothing. I could see Lynn running back and forth behind the Steelers’ bench afterward.

Even without Swann and Stallworth , the Steelers went in for another score and built up their lead to 28-14.  Bradshaw had a great time running up and down the sidelines showing the ball to Raider fans. Evidently, Terry thought the game was over even though there were still over five minutes on the clock. Unfortunately for Bradshaw and the entire Steeler team, five minutes were more than enough for us to come back.

When Kenny Stabler got his hands on the football, he started performing feats of magic. Within a minutes the scoreboard was lighting up and now read, Steelers 28, Raiders 21…

We stopped the Steelers on their next series and they kept us in our own territory when we got the ball back.  Madden decided to kick the ball deep and ask the defense to come up with the big play.  After three running plays the Steelers were faced with a a 4th down and ten.

TheRaiders 007In a matter of seconds the game was tied, but the Steelers were going to have another chance. Bradshaw was under fire; he threw a wild pass into the secondary and linebacker Willie Hall made a great interception.  The game was over and the Raider won, 31-28. Some of the Steelers warned us that they would return for the playoffs later in the year. Actually, there was a lot of truth in that statement because the Raiders and Steelers usually do meet in the playoff games.

I have never cried about anyone hitting me too hard or getting blind-sided, because it’s a chance I take every time I suit up to play football. Even when Mansfield speared me in the championship game of 1975 and my knee was injured, I didn’t complain. Even when I was hit in Denver after the play was over with a cheap shot that cost me knee surgery, I didn’t complain.


They Call Me Asassin, by Lester Hayes 1979 Part I

“If ever a man did have a reason to complain about my style of play, it had to be Riley Odoms, a tight end with the Denver Broncos. During a game at Mile High, I leveled the best shot of my career against Riley. It was a clean hit, not a chap shot, but I was upset because I really thought I had killed the man…”

Raiders2 019“…I dropped back a few steps to give Riley the impression I had deep coverage. Riley saw me dropping off and made a quick move over the middle. Quarterbacks love to see that type of a situation and Charley Johnson wasted little time releasing the ball…When I felt I could zero in on Riley’s head at the same moment the ball arrived in his hands, I moved… I heard Riely scream on impact and felt his body go limp. He landed flat on his back, and the ball came to rest on his chest for a completion, but Riley’s eyes rolled back in his head and he wasn’t breathing.I had another KO, and maybe this time, I had even killed a man. God knew that I didn’t want something like that to happen.”

“…I have continued my style of play and have registered many more knockouts. I remember one game, against Denver, when the Broncos’ best running back, Floyd Little, took a hand off and swept around the end with a herd of blockers leading the way. As he turned the corner I was coming up fast. Floyd didn’t see me coming and there was a collision at mid-field, right in front of the Denver bench. I whipped my hook up under Floyd’s face mask and landed a solid shot flush on his jaw. Floyd looked like a magician practicing levitation just before all the lights went out.  His head snapped back, his feet straightened out, and the ball and one of his shoes shot into the stands. “

“The I could have pushed Floyd out of bounds, but instead, I hit him with everything I had to offer because if you just push a guy like FLoyd Little out of bounds, then he’ll start getting some bad ideas about you. Floyd would probably start thinking that I was soft, and that would lead to him wanting to take advantage of me. Before long every team in the NFL would be gunning their game plans at me, and when that happened the Raiders would get someone else, someone that would beat a running back out of bounds rather than give him a sissy push.”


AFL Playoffs 1969: Raiders VS Oilers

Raiders program1a