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.
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.