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Oakland Raiders

Raiders greats dish on past and present at Gene Upshaw event

25 October 2009: Raiders logo on the 50 yard line on Sunday at the Oakland Coliseum in Oakland, Calif. The New York Jets defeated the Oakland Raiders 38-0
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The Oakland Raiders have a saying: “Once a Raider, always a Raider.”

It’s not just a cute slogan. Loyalty runs deep in this proud franchise. This is a group that famously hangs together over the years. This week was a perfect example of the Raiders’ fraternity. Monday, in Truckee, Calif., the ninth annual Gene Upshaw Memorial Golf Tournament was held. Many former Raiders players participated in the tournament

Upshaw, a Hall of Fame guard who died in 2008 at the age of 63, was beloved. The tournament benefited cancer programs and traumatic brain injury research.

On Sunday night, several former Raiders’ gathered for a roundtable event. Thanks to tournament organizers, here is a look at some of the topics covered:

Question: What was John Madden like? How did he motivate his players, get them to the next level and deal with not [renegades], right, but a different type of locker room that maybe the rest of the NFL had?

Raymond Chester: “Madden was a master communicator. And the way I look at coaches, a lot of guys know Xs and Os and they can tell you everything about the game, history of the game, whatever. But they’re not so successful at communicating it to their players. And I don’t care what you know. What I know, if I can’t make you understand and put it in terms that you can understand, so you can use it and perform to the best of your ability, and then I’m maybe not the best coach. But Madden was a master communicator. And I think he made everybody feel — everybody in the whole organization feel as though they were able to have a personal, private conversation with John Madden at any time and get their point across and fully understand what his point was. So communication, to me, was his biggest skill set.”

Otis Sistrunk: “I think, Ray, is that he could talk to his players better than some of the coaches today talks to their players. Just like you said, run through a wall. I did run through the wall for John, because John Madden was just that kind of man.

Q: What are your thoughts on the Raiders’ move to Las Vegas?

Mike Haynes: “I have mixed emotions. I feel sorry for Raider fans in Oakland. But Raider fans around the world, it’s probably a good move. I don’t know that people would want to come from Europe to Oakland or from Mexico to Oakland, but I definitely know people want to go to Las Vegas.

So from an international standpoint — and the NFL’s trying to grow the league. And so I would like to think that this is going to be a good move for the Raiders. And Raider fans in Oakland, it’s not that far away, may not get to go to every game, but they’ll still come and they’ll stay loyal to the Raiders. And I know Mark Davis really wanted to stay in Oakland, didn’t really want to leave. For them to leave, it had to be a tough decision for him.”

Q: You look at this Raiders roster today. Obviously that 2014 draft, which they nailed, and now Marshawn Lynch is in the picture. This team appears primed to go to a Super Bowl. Certainly a contender. What are your thoughts?

Ted Kwalick: “Today’s game has changed a lot since when we played. And I really feel that it’s just a matter of who stays the healthiest throughout the season. And like last year, Cardinals go down towards the end of the season, they fall apart; they’re not in the playoffs. So you can’t name a backup quarterback, I don’t know if you can, throughout the NFL, who backs up Brady, who backs up the guy at Green Bay, you don’t know who these back-up quarterbacks are. Back when we played, everybody was confident that we had a good back-up. And that emulates throughout the whole system. They’re paying these guys so much money.”

Chester: “I think when you lose a starting player, particularly a quarterback, then it’s up to the coaches to have the rest of the players to make adjustments. So you can’t expect a backup quarterback to have the same control and the same authority over the game plan and whatever. So now the coaches gotta change the game plan. He’s got to put more pressure on Otis and more pressure on Ted and more pressure on me to take pressure off of that.”

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