There went The Judge?
Almost. Lester Hayes, the five-time Pro Bowl cornerback known as The Judge to his Raider teammates, was almost traded to the San Francisco 49ers at midseason, according to a team source.
The source said the deal would have been for the 49ers' three-time Pro Bowl player, Ronnie Lott, who was then struggling at cornerback and resisting Coach Bill Walsh's suggestion that he move to safety.
Lott finally agreed to change positions. According to the source, Walsh then pulled Lott back, and offered the Raiders one of two other Pro Bowl veterans, safety Dwight Hicks or guard Randy Cross. Al Davis said no.
Raider Coach Tom Flores was noncommittal, but Hayes confirmed the account.
"I don't have any comment on that," Flores said. "But at times conversations like that happen and a lot of people get mentioned. Like, 'Would you trade so and so for so and so?' Then word gets out. You're always faced by those kind of rumors, those kind of leaks."
Hayes was asked if he'd known anything about it.
"Yes, of course, of course," he said. "It's factual. It doesn't really matter. My business is predicated on money. So be it."
Hayes is about to turn 31. He had an off season in 1984, though he was still voted to the Pro Bowl. He started slowly in 1985, with an especially hard night in Kansas City, courtesy of the Chiefs' Carlos Carson.
Hayes is also reported to have been unhappy with his contract, and to have walked out for a day.
The Raiders are said to have been ready to plug Sam Seale, newly converted from wide receiver, in at Hayes' left corner spot. Seale is younger and faster than Hayes, and Davis is said to regard him as "a young Darrell Green." Green is a speedy Redskin cornerback.
After the talks fell through, Hayes had a strong second half of the season. He finished fourth in the Pro Bowl voting behind teammate Mike Haynes, Denver's Louis Wright and New England's Ray Clayborn, costing him his sixth selection.