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Stepping Back and Taking a Long Look at the Raiders

November 26, 1987|MARK HEISLER

For Howie Long, it's been a season like any other.

Except that his team has fallen apart.

And his old friend, Lyle Alzado, said the problem was a lack of leaders.

And he crossed the picket line and played--badly, by his own admission--during the strike.

And he was the focus of resentment by some striking teammates, one of whom, Mike Haynes, admitted it. "At first, I couldn't look at Howie, after what he pulled," Haynes said.

And his sack total is three, threatening his streak of four straight Pro Bowl appearances and causing network color commentators to organize search parties for him.

On the other hand, Al Davis, a hard judge, especially of high-priced help, took Long aside recently and told him he was fine.

Thanks, he needed that.

"When things are going bad, everyone has an answer for why things are going bad," Long said Wednesday.

"When things are going good, everybody looks good. Those three or four bad plays you had in that 35-34 victory don't loom half as large as in a 35-34 loss. That's just the way things are.

"A broadcasting team on TV will just look and look and look. I know personally in the situation I'm in, people have an iso (isolation) camera on me on the side, waiting for that bad play. But there's nothing I can do about that. All I can do is work hard. Hey, I sleep at night.

"I play well. Let me rephrase that. I play hard. . . . We're not like the Chicago Bears, where they send everyone. I play within the team defense. That's what I do. I'll never be a big sack guy. I try to disrupt things and draw people to me, set other people up. So far, it's been good to me.

"Some things did hold me back this year. I had some problems in the two strike games, emotionally. The effort and the emotion wasn't quite what it should have been. And that's my fault. I let my emotions get the best of me.

"But this year, from that standpoint, has been a tremendous learning experience. . . . It made me realize what is important, who are our friends. It made me realize when it's all said and done, it's really only going to be two, three, four people."

And resentment from teammates?

"I'm sure there was but it wasn't directed towards me. It might have been directed towards me in around-the-corner discussions but it was never directed towards me."

The Raider future?

"It's exciting. For the first time in a long time, I got chills down my spine on a football field, watching someone else do something. This guy, No. 34 (Bo Jackson), is just something. Nobody has a more talented backfield in the entire world.

"I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, as far as this team turning around in a big way (is concerned). And believe me, my memory is as long as the state of Texas, man. We'll be back.

"There are a lot of people kicking us now that we're down. When we're back, we'll be back. They'll have to answer to us then."

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