HENDERSON, Nev. (AP) — Coach Josh McDaniels and his staff are still looking for a full game of consistency from the Las Vegas Raiders.
As the Raiders (1-4) head into Sunday’s game against the Houston Texans (1-3-1), one former Raider who won a Super Bowl ring believes there is a solution.
“We need old-school Raiders toughness. That 100% smash-mouth attitude, here to take no prisoners mindset on both sides of the ball,” said former Raiders running back Frank Hawkins, who was part of the 1984 team that defeated Washington 38-9 in Super Bowl XVIII. “They have to be so physical that at the end of each game, win or lose, the other team won’t want to play the Raiders again.”
The difference from 30-plus years ago, regarding Hawkins’ thought process, is rules have changed to protect the players while making health a priority.
“I think that’s the main thing,” said veteran linebacker Denzel Perryman, who suffered a concussion earlier this season. “Me being a physical player, sometimes you got to watch it just because of the rules. Especially with the new rule changes with unnecessary roughness with the quarterback, that’s definitely gonna play a toll on guys with a high motor coming up the edge.”
Perryman said he doesn’t believe today’s players are missing grittiness, they’re simply approaching their actions more cautious, knowing penalties and fines come with playing with reckless abandon.
Former Raiders cornerback Mike Haynes agreed times have certainly changed, as players from decades ago didn’t prioritize the well-being of one another as much as they did winning football games.
“During my era, guys doing the hitting as well as the player he hit didn’t think about the probable health and wellness problems they might experience later in life,” said Haynes, who was also on the 1984 Super Bowl team, in a text. “Over the last 25 years, the football community has launched safer ways to teach and play the game. The gear that players wear is better. Several devices have been approved to detect and heal injuries. Medical staffs today are aware of the concussion challenges and are asked to prevent players from playing when they’re injured.”
No surprise, one of the players Hawkins has been impressed with is the Raiders’ current star running back, Josh Jacobs, who ranks third in the league with 490 yards rushing, including 298 the last two games.
“If they want to win, they gotta keep running Josh Jacobs the way he’s running. That guy is running like he’s running for a Super Bowl,” Hawkins said.
On the other side of the ball, Johnathan Abram’s analytics didn’t matter to an old-school, rugged alum like Hawkins. While Pro Football Focus’ grade has Abram ranked 77th among 87 qualifying safeties, Hawkins gave the fourth-year safety an A-plus.
“The Raiders, in my humble opinion, need a player like Abram at every position,” Hawkins said. “We gotta have that toughness that knocks your you know what in the dirt every single play, 100 percent. That’s what we need to be the Raiders of old, to be the winning Raiders. We gotta bring that toughness back.”
Humbled by the praise from a former Super Bowl champion, Abram agreed with Perryman that it’s not grit that is missing, but more so a change of rules means nobody is “running in there wild, head down, hitting people.” He also said if a whiff of grittiness is missing, perhaps it should remind everyone why they started playing in the first place.
“In high school, you dream of going to the league, but that’s not why you’re out there doing it,” said Abram, who ranks second on the team with 24 solo tackles. “You’re doing it because you love football, you want to dominate the guy in front of you. ... It didn’t matter who he was, how good he was, it was always an edge of ‘I’m going to dominate.’
“A lot of guys were still playing for the exact same reasons. To just actually dominate. And those are some of the guys who go on to be Hall of Famers.”
Sentiments echoed by another former Raider great.
“Those teams of the past had that reputation of being nasty and were intimidating yes, but first they were great players — so many HOF (Hall of Fame) player (sic) from those awesome teams,” former defensive back Eric Allen wrote in a text. “Not sure if there’s a place in today’s game where you can be nasty and not cost your team unnecessary penalties. I think (edge rusher) Maxx (Crosby) is the perfect Raiders for today’s game.”
NOTES: TE Darren Waller (hamstring) was ruled out for Sunday’s game. LB Jayon Brown (hamstring), WR Mack Hollins (heel) and WR Hunter Renfrow (hip) are all questionable.
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