Happy to remember and too have seen it all!
[b:176cd88745]Wild & Crazy Guys [/b:176cd88745]
The Oakland Raiders hope to reclaim their past image of being ...
By Clay Latimer
ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS
(Published Friday, December 6, 2002, 8:16 AM)
The Oakland Raiders have been called dreadful things for 40 years, and generally they have lived up to them.
But under coach Jon Gruden their skull-and-crossbones image was seriously tarnished by repentant renegades such as guard Steve Wisniewski, who started coaching a children's soccer team in his free hours, and tackle Lincoln Kennedy, who once danced in The Nutcracker.
So old-timers must have cracked sly smiles when a group of NFL officials arrived at the Raiders training camp last summer to speak to the team about rules changes for the upcoming season.
One by one, 70 players walked out as the presentation started, a symbolic protest of a referee's decision during Oakland's controversial playoff loss to New England the previous January.
When Gruden left to coach the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the offseason, the New Raiders' image went with him, replaced by a familiar "Us Against Them" mentality. In fact, under rookie coach Bill Callahan, the club hopes to tap into their wild roots, established by Al Davis, the godfather of football's ultimate gothic circus.
"He makes Darth Vader look like a punk," author Hunter S. Thompson said.
The Raiders, though, have a long way to go if they hope to duplicate the 1960s, '70s and '80s, when a freewheeling cast of menacing oddballs and goofy misfits unnerved the NFL with boozy escapades, dirty tricks and bizarre bacchanals.
"The pirate thing, the colors, the black, the image they portrayed, the way they bent the rules, the cheap shots, hitting after a play was over, the win-at-all costs, jolly, happy-go-lucky approach -- it all just came together for the Raiders," said Louis Wright, a Pro Bowl cornerback for the Denver Broncos in the 1970s and '80s.
The symbolic face of the old Raiders was Otis Sistrunk, a savage pass rusher and run stopper on a defensive unit that terrorized the AFC in the '70s. During a Monday night game, as a camera panned the bench area, Sistrunk was sweating so profusely on a cool night that steam was rising from his shaved head, creating an alien-like ambience.
"There's Otis Sistrunk, from . . . the University of Mars," analyst Alex Karras said.
Sistrunk had plenty of intriguing company.
Fullback Marv Hubbard prided himself on being able to punch a plate glass window and pull his hand back before the glass cut him.
Guard George Buehler prepared for a showdown with the San Diego Chargers by knocking around a Coke machine during the week.
Wide receiver Fred Biletnikoff was able to fall into a deep sleep in team meetings with his eyes wide open.
Defensive end Art Thoms carried his personal gear in a Mickey Mouse lunch box.
Tackle Bob Brown carried a dumbbell to lunch and did curls with one hand while he ate, then switched his fork and dumbbell to the other hand and continued his program.
In the mid-1970s, the unusual defensive secondary featured left cornerback Skip Thomas, nicknamed "Dr. Death;" free safety Jack Tatum, called "The Assassin;" and right cornerback Willie Brown, whose job, according to Ken Stabler in his book "Snake," was simple: "He kept the others from killing."
But Tatum and Co. were no match for a couple of teammates.
"The Raiders played on their image," Wright said.
"But you start talking about John Matuszak and Ted Hendricks, well, I think those guys really were out there -- seriously out there.
"They would have been way out there with any team."
A 6-foot-7, 270-pound defensive lineman who played for the Raiders from 1976-82, "The Tooz" intimidated opponents with his size alone.
But the fear factor didn't end there. "He was a lunatic," Wright said.
At the University of Missouri, Matuszak punched and nearly killed a man he thought was involved with his girlfriend, then transferred to Tampa, where he posed in a centerfold-type photo, covered only by a towel, for a local magazine.
The Houston Oilers picked Matuszak first in the 1973 draft, but Matuszak left the team because he hated head coach Sid Gillman.
With the Kansas City Chiefs, he was arrested for marijuana possession in 1974, and nearly overdosed on booze and sleeping pills.
His wife also tried to run him over in a car.
In 1976, the Washington Redskins cut Matuszak in preseason; asked why, coach George Allen said, "Vodka and ******, the breakfast of champions."
Matuszak made an indelible impression on the Raiders. After the rest of the team had taken the field, the hulking defender suddenly came sprinting into view, screaming at a piercing pitch. Davis wasn't amused.
"I wonder if John's worth the gamble?" he said to Hendricks, who was standing nearby.
Answered Hendricks: "Al, what difference will one more make?"
Days before Super Bowl XV was played in New Orleans, where the Raiders went on to beat the Philadelphia Eagles 27-10, Matuszak announced: "I'm going to see that there's no funny business. I've had enough parties for 20 people's lifetimes. I've grown up. I'll keep our young fellows out of trouble. If any players want to stray, they gotta go through Ol' Tooz."
The next night, Matuszak was out partying until at least 3 a.m. and was hit with a $1,000 fine.
Called "The Mad Stork" because he was 6-7 and skinny -- and known for aberrant behavior -- Hendricks had a knack for being in the right place at the right time.
Hendricks, who played for Oakland from 1975-83, blocked 25 field-goal or extra-point attempts during his 15-year career, recovered 16 fumbles, intercepted 26 passes, recorded four safeties and scored three touchdowns on turnovers.
He never missed a game, playing in 215 consecutive contests. In his final season, he suffered from such severe abdominal muscle pulls that he had to roll out of bed sideways and lay on the floor while he dressed.
"Ted would come into the huddle after his forays and he'd be smiling with purple teeth and a purple tongue from the red wine," remembered former linebacker Phil Villapiano.
In 1976, Hendricks missed a Raiders bed check one night, so the next morning John Madden was ready to slap him with a $500 fine.
"Where were you last night?" Madden asked, expecting anything but the truth.
Instead, Hendricks said, "I went out with [Marv] Hubbard. ... He got cut yesterday. It was his last night before he went home; it was his last night as a pro. I just decided to go out with him and celebrate."
After a pause, mindful of Hubbard's many contributions over the years, Madden said, "I would have done the same thing. No fine."
The last of a breed -- the devil-may-care field general who called his own plays -- Stabler was a steadying influence for the Raiders' band of misfits. Another QB might have blown his cool over the unruliness.
Stabler guided the Raiders to five division titles and a 32-14 victory against the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl XI.
"Stabler was a master," Wright said. "He was so cool at the line of scrimmage. He'd wink at you, talk to you. He was just having a ball. He'd get knocked on his butt and get up and make you think he'd just arrived at the picnic."
Stabler's tenure with the Raiders (1970-79) ended on a troublesome note when Davis blamed him for the team's mediocre season. The pair feuded in the press for months; asked if he was prepared to bury the hatchet with Davis, Stabler said, "I'd like to bury the hatchet -- right in his neck."
Happy to remember and too have seen it all!
We need this attitude for sunday's game...
THAT, Mr. Murder WILL NEVER HAPPEN, not with this lot!
I think Mr.Barton and napo would have fit this... hustle. Perhaps Napo is too nice though (j/k Tomeika ).
Don't forget Phillipe' as well!
That team..........now those are the Raiders, hell those are real football players, no no, those were real men! Not these classless bastards we have now....those guys, they didn't care about money....they cared for nothing more than to inflict pain, strike fear, and get wasted!!! I love'em...
much respect to the greats
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