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PRO FOOTBALL : Webster's Response: Just Call It a Slaughter on Figueroa Street

December 21, 1987|RICH ROBERTS | Times Staff Writer

When Lester Hayes called him "that sissy" last week, Webster Slaughter didn't respond.

Even when Hayes, the idle Raider cornerback, said the Cleveland Browns' wide receiver was nothing more than "a cocky juvenile (who) thinks he's a 5-foot-10 King Kong," Webster had no words.

But Slaughter heard and took mental notes and was ready with his answer Sunday: 7 receptions for 115 yards and a touchdown in the Browns' 24-17 victory at the Coliseum.

Afterward, Slaughter said that Hayes' comments had "inspired me a lot."

As long as the Raiders have Lester Hayes, opponents won't need pep talks.

"Probably the only reason he said what he said was he knew he wasn't gonna have to play," Slaughter said.

"If he thought I was so much of a sissy and he wanted me so bad, he knew where we were in town Saturday. I'm sure he could have found the hotel.

"I had a lot of thoughts. I had a lot of things to say, but I chose not to say 'em. I think I proved what I can do out on the field today.

"With the West Coast jinx thing and with the stuff in the paper and the way I played, you can say it was probably my best game."

The Browns (9-5) had lost five of their last six West Coast games until Sunday but needed this one to take a clear lead in the tight AFC Central Division, a game ahead of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Houston Oilers. They can win the title by beating or tying the Steelers at Three Rivers Stadium next Saturday.

"I was looking forward to this game (after) the comments in the paper," Slaughter said.

Hayes, in street clothes, spent the entire game on the Raiders' side of the field, but never even said hello.

"I saw him on the sideline and gave him a little point, but I didn't get a reaction from him," Slaughter said.

Instead, Slaughter, his blood up for the game, got into an early scuffle with another cornerback, Lionel Washington. Both drew offsetting personal fouls.

"That was just a matter of helping out your teammate," Slaughter said. "He was over there pushing on (Reggie) Langhorne after the whistle blew and I just went to help out."

Seventeen of Brown quarterback Bernie Kosar's 21 completions were to wide receivers.

"(The Raiders) played a lot of man-to-man coverage, a lot of bump and run and one of my biggest assets is getting off the line of scrimmage," Slaughter said. "I believe I can beat anybody in the league (in man to man)."

He caught only one pass in the second half because, Slaughter said: "They doubled up bracketing me to the inside and outside. We just went to the other people. We have a lot of weapons on this team. You can't focus on one person."

Except, perhaps, in reverse. With Hayes and Mike Haynes both out Sunday, Kosar seemed to be zeroing in on their backups, who had a very long day. Slaughter was working against Sam Seale a lot.

"All week I thought I could beat him, and the coaches thought I could beat him, and we just took advantage of it," he said.

Asked what weakness they exploited, Slaughter said, "He was just going against me, if you want to put it like that."

Seale had one big moment, however. Kosar opened the second half with a long pass down the left sideline to Slaughter, who had a step on Seale when he caught the ball for a 36-yard gain but neglected to tuck the ball away. Seale reached out and stole it.

"He saved his butt, is what happened," Slaughter said, grudgingly. "He made a great play. That's never happened to me. I thought the ball had come loose. I didn't know he had it. I thought I'd fumbled it."

Seale explained: "I just caught up and stripped him from the back. I was trying for the ball because he had it on the inside arm and it was getting out, so I took it."

For the next few minutes, with the Raiders trailing 17-3, it looked like a comeback was in the making.

Seale: "We got the ball and drove all the way down to the nine-yard line, fumbled, and they came back, we stopped 'em but jumped offside (on a field goal attempt) and they got the touchdown--the winning touchdown."

And so the Raiders' season has gone. It wasn't just Bernie Kosar and Webster Slaughter.

"The way we were playing, anybody could have a good game," Seale said.

Seale, who remarked after a game last season that he felt as if he had a bull's-eye on his chest, said he didn't think Kosar and Slaughter were picking on him in particular.

"Not really. They were throwing quick passes, and we were in defenses that . . . it did seem that every defense we were in, they knew the right pattern and it was open. It wasn't like they were focusing on the corners. The first half I thought the whole defense played just terrible. We couldn't stop 'em.

"The first half we were playing like they were great and we weren't even there. Anybody he wanted to throw to, they were open. The second half we did a little better and he didn't do that much."

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