Veteran presence


(Note: Last call for readers to submit lead blog items. Send to jmcdonald@angnewspapers.com. Regular blogs will resume soon with breakdowns of each position group heading into training camp, plus news updates as warranted)

By Jason Villeneuve (jjvill)

Al Davis is a man who relishes history, especially the history of the Oakland Raiders. This has been both a benefit and bane for those of us living in Raider Nation.

It is a benefit because the Nation gets to root for the NFL team with the most unique legacy in the game. It can also be a bane at times. Like when Al tries to recapture the past with coaches who haven’t stepped on the sidelines in a decade or whose prior job was scrambling eggs at a bed and breakfast.

I’m sorry those Tom Walsh jokes never get old.

My point here is that it is always a boom or bust proposition when the Raiders dip back into their past to try and create future glory. A popular Raider move in the last couple of decades has been the signing of a veteran safety to solidify the defense. Enter Donovin Darius.

Darius could be a boom prospect that brings a talented, young secondary the veteran savvy it needs along with a little Tatum- ike intimidation for the opposition. Or he could be breaking down, as his last two years in Jacksonville might suggest, and be a Raider bust.

Only the future will reveal what reality the Raiders will face with Darius. I can only hope that his signing follows recent Raiders history and has boom written all over it. Let’s take a step back into the archives and see what these veteran safeties have done for past Oakland squads.

In 1991 the Raiders, sadly the L.A. version, were coming off a spectacular 12-4 season that ended with a thrashing in the AFC Championship game at Buffalo. Actually it probably ended one week earlier when Bo Jackson’s hip went pop.

So in 1991 we had no Bo, the Marcus Allen feud was in full effect, and Jay Schroeder was still our QB, sadly the same Schroeder version from every other year. This was not looking like a playoff year.

The Raiders did squeak into the post-season in 1991 mainly because of a stingy defense led by off-season pickup, and future Hall of Famer, Ronnie Lott. Lott led the Raiders charge all year picking off eight passes and had singular game winning efforts with an overtime interception in Seattle and also led a dominating defensive performance in a win over his former 49er team.

Ronnie Lott may have only worn the Silver and Black for two years, but he was definitely a boom signing for the team. Without him I doubt they make the playoffs in 1991, that is the ultimate impact free agent.

My favorite, and maybe least appreciated, veteran safety that had a positive impact on the team was Eric Turner in 1997. Turner was the ultimate case of not realizing what you have until it was gone.

His play wasn’t extremely noticeable that first year in Oakland mainly because he was surrounded by maybe the worst set of Raider defenders ever, led by that big turd Chester McGlockton. But in 1998 and 1999 Turner was a big part of a defensive turnaround along with Charles Woodson and Eric Allen.

Turner was one of the leaders of a Raider team that was just about to turn that corner into playoff contention when he was suddenly and tragically taken from us in the spring of 2000. All of Raider Nation mourned for Turner the man. I don’t think any of us really mourned his loss as a football player until we watched Shannon Sharpe run 96 yards in the 2000 AFC Championship game.

No way Sharpe gets that much yardage if E-Rock is still prowling the secondary. Eric Turner was definitely a Raider boom _ RIP my Raider brother.

The most recent boom signing at safety is someone every Raider fan remembers is Rod Woodson. Who can forget his game changing, possibly season saving, play on a Monday night in November 20,02? Rod stepping in front of the Brian Griese pass and streaking down the Mile High, Invesco, whatever, sideline is something Raider Nation will never forget.

Even if he was a hated Steeler and one of those bum Ravens from 2000, Rod Woodson should always be thought of fondly in the hearts of the Nation. He helped carry Oakland to the Promised Land and for that he is a boom signing to remember.

The 2007 version of the Oakland Raiders look like it’s all about the future with young, unproven characters like Lane Kiffin and JaMarcus Russell, but with Al and the Raiders there is always a little bit of history in the mix. Will Darius be a boom or bust? Only the future will reveal that question.


Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer