HENDERSON, Nev. — Every year the Raiders hold alumni gatherings before a preseason game, with some of the greatest names in football sharing stories of their glory years, donning Silver and Black in Oakland and/or Los Angeles.
The common theme among names such as Marcus Allen, Mike Haynes, Jim Plunkett, Fred Biletnikoff, Ted Hendricks, Charles Woodson, Rod Woodson and Tim Brown has generally been “Raider Pride” and what it means to be a part of a fraternity like none other in the National Football League.
“We’re certainly a band of brothers, that’s for sure,” Allen, the Super Bowl MVP in 1984, said during one of the recent events in Las Vegas. “It’s unique, it really is, and I’m sure every organization feels that way. There’s something, you know – a mystique with the Raiders.”
And while Antonio Pierce’s playing days were spent with Washington and the New York Giants, he’s no stranger to what the Raiders mean to the NFL.
“I grew up in Compton, California – I was born a Raider,” Pierce said. “I was born with the Raiders rolling in the Coliseum in L.A. I was rolling with NWA, talking ‘Straight Outta Compton,’ rocking Raider hats.
“We’re fortunate to play for an alumni base, an owner, a fan base that live and die Raiders. When we walk in that stadium, it’s got to be electric.”
Electric, like the historic organization that was once known for putting one of the most feared teams on a football field. Like the franchise that missed the playoffs just nine times in a 27-year span, while collecting three Super Bowls along the way.
Since then, the Raiders have made the playoffs only five times in 29 seasons.
First things first, though, as Pierce has to gain the trust of his players and rebuild the chemistry Josh McDaniels seemingly dismantled during his time as coach.
“He’s a leader of men and I think the guys have responded really well to his message and what he’s pushing,” defensive end Maxx Crosby said. “It’s going to be exciting to get out there on the field together.”
Haynes, who was on the same team with Allen that won the Super Bowl in 1984, liked what he heard from Pierce’s first press conference alongside interim general manager Champ Kelly and believes winning the locker room is a start in the right direction.
“Antonio and Champ appear to be on the same page, which will help their efforts in accomplishing whatever they’re thinking needs to be done to defeat the Giants,” Haynes wrote in a text. “Both have experienced coaching changes in their careers and know how it affects staffs as well as players. Honesty is important to them and they both know what they can and cannot control. Reviewing games as a staff and a team highlights the importance of resolving problems so that excelling on each and every play becomes possible.”
The process begins Sunday when an equally struggling New York Giants arrive at Allegiant Stadium. Both teams have shown offensive ineptitude, but under new leadership and with a reinvigorated attitude, the Raiders appear ready to quickly flip the script.
“Attitude and execution are important to consider whenever changes occur,” Haynes also wrote. “They both seem to know how to manage coaching changes. Whatever happens this weekend, I’m sure that they’ll use it to improve their efforts for the next game.”
For both Crosby, the defensive leader, and offensive captain Davante Adams, it’s a matter of getting back to winning and being a part of a positive atmosphere.
“He’s a leader of men and I think the guys have responded really well to his message and what he’s pushing,” Adams said of Pierce. “It’s going to be exciting to get out there on the field together.”
Added Crosby: “I just want to win and that’s all that matters. I want to be in a great environment. I want to show up to work every single day and feel great energy because I feel like that’s more important than anything. At the end of the day, you’ve got to enjoy this. If you don’t, you’re not going to have much success. It’s already hard enough to go out there and do what we do, so if you’re walking in the building and not enjoying it, it’s going to be even harder. For me, that’s what I push every single day. I want the guys to feel that as well.”
It’s what being a Raider is all about. It’s what it’s always been about, and Pierce will continue to emphasize with plenty of season left – nine games – to turn things around.
“‘The Autumn Wind,’ the song itself, it really tells an incredible story about an organization that really sort of believes and teaches that, ‘Hey, it’s ours, let’s go get it. And we let nothing stand in our way,” Allen said in regard to the poem that has long been known as an anthem for the Raiders. “As a kid growing up and watching the Raiders, they were sort of bigger than life. And to go there and experience and play with that same sort of style that I watched on TV, we have some rich, rich traditions, some great, great players.
“You can’t even talk about the National Football League without talking about the Raiders, it’s such a huge part of the entire story.”
A story, with a new chapter on Raider Pride.