Jason O. Watson
The Oakland Raiders have long been a team known for their aggressive style of play that many have called "dirty." Under a new regime, the team is backing off and trying to shed the label.
To equate the Oakland Raiders with the term "dirty" would have been a complement not that long ago. Same with the Ravens, Steelers or any other team that boasted a aggressive, physical style that blurred the line of safety at times. Famous stories of guys like Jack Tatum to Bill Romanowski cemented the Raiders tradition to that end, but now the times have changed.
In the midst of the Saints bounty scandal, concussion safety concerns and the like, teams are backing off of such labels. The Detroit Lions are dealing with the same perception that comes with Ndamukong Suh, and the result is an awkward living-with-it-but-not-embracing-it team identity.
As for the Raiders, they want to admire the style of play without being associated with crossing the line.
"I don't think we're dirty," defensive back Michael Huff said. "I just think we play physical, aggressive football, like it's supposed to be played."
"If somebody's talking about you, you're doing something right," fullback Marcel Reece added. "You're doing something good. We play hard. We don't play dirty. But everybody has their right to their own opinion. Obviously divisional opponents are going to feel it a little more because it's a rivalry. Those weeks are different. Hey, he has his right to his opinion. Like I said, if somebody says something about you, it means you're doing something right."
Chiefs players have been describing the Raiders' style of play this week in such terms -- from Eric Winston describing them as "chippy" to Tamba Hali's statement that the Raiders will "cheapshot you."
The game itself will speak of any real changes in the Raiders on-field behavior. But at the very least, it's clear that the swagger of the Raiders has been subdued for a more professional, steady demeanor under new head coach Dennis Allen.