Fact: Mike Haynes was beaten by Carlos Carson for a 25-yard touchdown pass last week.
Reaction: Genuine surprise. A few moments earlier, a writer in the Kansas City press box who was watching Haynes knock down a pass, had asked: “Why would they even waste a play going at that guy?”
Some Raider beat writers say it might have been the first time that Haynes had been beaten deep in his 1 1/2 Raider seasons. Others disagreed but couldn’t remember anything specific.
Also, Haynes was called twice for pass interference at Kansas City. It was even suggested that those were his first two as a Raider.
This is an oblique compliment of enormous proportions. In today’s supercharged football, a Pro Bowl cornerback can get beaten once a game. The San Francisco 49ers’ Ronnie Lott has allowed four touchdowns in the last three weeks, two regular-season games plus an exhibition.
Haynes reaction to this particular compliment?
“I don’t really want to dwell on that,” he said of Carson’s catch. “That’s history. It might make a good story, but this week is a big game.”
You think it isn’t a fragile kind of existence then, out there on the razor edge of their bravado? For a top guy, one every season and a half is hard to take.
“That was one play out of 67 or 70,” Haynes said. “That was the only pass I gave up the whole game. But it’s just the nature of the position.
“You’ve got to be confident back there. I’ve seen good guys who lost their confidence. They were still good defensive backs, but maybe the ability to be great had gone because they dwelt on the past.
“The way I like to do it is look at the films, see some of the things you might have done wrong and correct them. You realize you have certain goals. If you have a good game, you don’t celebrate.”
Haynes says he still has unfulfilled goals. This is a seven-time Pro Bowl player. What is left? The Hall of Fame? Does he want to retire the cornerback position?
This time, he isn’t saying.
“My freshman year at Arizona State, I shared my goals with a reporter,” Haynes said. “They were pretty high goals, especially for a freshman. They blasted me. They called me cocky in the papers. That was kind of embarrassing.”
At 32, Haynes appears anything but cocky. He is as smooth off the field as on, gracious, urbane, but under it all, relentlessly competitive.
Well, their mommies said there would be days like Kansas City, too. Neither Haynes nor fellow cornerback Lester Hayes agreed with some of the things they were ruled to have done wrong by officials on interference calls. Hayes bounced his helmet off the turf in punctuating one argument.
There are new rules allowing more contact by defenders downfield. Since one man’s incidental contact is his opponent’s mugging, the new rules seem likely to promote more contact and more judgment calls.
“You don’t understand the new rules?” Haynes asked, laughing. “That makes two of us.
“The way I understand it, there’s no change in the first five yards. You can still jam the receiver. I think there’s been a change in what amounts to incidental contact.
“A lot of times, you have inside position. They come inside and you’re already there. What are you supposed to do, jump out of the way? It’s a judgment call. When they changed the rule last time, it took everybody about three years to get used to it, before coaches could tell defensive backs what they could do and couldn’t do. I hope it doesn’t take that long this time. I wasn’t really pleased with some of those calls they made in Kansas City.”
A lot of Raiders weren’t pleased with a lot of things in Kansas City.
“I know I was stunned by what happened,” Haynes said. “I thought we had a much better ballclub than Kansas City. I still think we have a much better ballclub than Kansas City. They just had a great day executing. There were some penalties that changed the momentum of the game. They have a tough ballclub, there was a big crowd.”
Sunday against the 49ers, there will be another big crowd but it will be friendlier. To Haynes, Kansas City is back there somewhere around the time of the Punic Wars. He has films of Dwight Clark, Freddie Solomon and Jerry Rice to burn into memory and many more miles to go, he hopes, before anyone else beats him deep.