After 14 Lofty Seasons, Raiders’ Ray Guy Retires : Nagging Injuries and Declining Punting Average Force Him to Make Decision
Another Raider star sailed off toward Raider Valhalla Tuesday when Ray Guy, the team’s punter for the ages, announced his retirement.
Guy, 37, was coming off a poor season and would have had to endure the first competition of his 14-year career in training camp to keep his job. The Raiders, however, do not appear to have requested this retirement.
Rather, it looks as if Guy, with a year at $225,000 left on his contract, decided on his own to pack it in. He has called a press conference for today at his home in Hattiesburg, Miss., and could not be reached for comment.
“There were just a lot of things that came up,” Guy told the Hattiesburg American. “I always said that if I got to the point where I couldn’t produce the way I want to, where I couldn’t help the team to satisfy the way I feel inside, I would give it up, and that’s what I did.
“I’ve had a lot of back problems the last few years, and every year it’s gotten worse. . . . My boy is 9 years old, and I can see the toll it’s taking on him. He’d start school in California and finish here in Mississippi, and it’s not fair to him.”
Guy, a legend among punters, was the first ever drafted in the first round. He was the first to hit the TV screen above the Louisiana Superdome. He led the league three times. He had only three kicks blocked in his career. His punts were so high that once, Bum Phillips, then coaching the Houston Oilers, swiped one of Guy’s footballs and sent it to Rice University to be checked for helium.
“The older I get, I wish they would let you put something in them,” Guy said last season, laughing.
Over the years, he lost yards off his boomers but made up for it with accuracy and hang time. He had a middle-of-the-pack gross average in 1985 but led the American Conference in net average.
Last season, his net average fell to ninth in the AFC. In a game at Miami, he put one kick up into a stiff breeze. It stopped dead in the air, fell to earth at the line of scrimmage and bounced right back to him, forcing him to down his own kick.
The Raiders have had two free agents kicking in El Segundo for months, including Stan Talley, whose career average for the Oakland Invaders led the United States Football League.
“This wasn’t a total surprise, considering Ray had some nagging injuries last year,” Raider Coach Tom Flores said. “He had a sub-par year. When a guy’s played 14 years, you have to be prepared for a time when he can’t do it anymore.
“If he felt 100%, we didn’t have any reservations (about bringing him back). But he felt he wouldn’t be able to perform at his best.
“I can still remember the AFC championship game in San Diego in 1981, when we were going to the Super Bowl. We’re on our own 30-yard line and he kicks it out of bounds inside their 10. That’s where he was aiming. It went out at the five. How many punters would even be aiming it out of bounds from that far out?
“‘He’s probably the best ever at that position in the history of the game. Fourteen seasons is a long time. Three Super Bowl championships is pretty good. And we’ll miss him but we have to go on.”
Selected to the Pro Bowl in each of his first six seasons (1973-78) and in 1980, Guy punted 1,049 times for 44,493 yards during his 14-year career, the fourth- and third-highest totals, respectively, in NFL history.
In his career, Guy played in 22 postseason games, including Raider victories in Super Bowls XI, XV and XVIII. His 111 punts in the playoffs is a league record.
Last season, Guy averaged 40.2 yards on 90 punts.
Guy was a fine all-around athlete, a safety at Southern Mississippi and the Raiders’ emergency quarterback. He wanted to play defense when he first reported. “Al (Davis) watched him punt and he said, ‘I’ll kill the first man who lets him on the field.’ ” said Al LoCasale, the club’s executive assistant.
There were years when Guy had the strongest arm on the team. In 1981, when the Raiders were in the midst of being shut out three straight times, they sent him in to throw a bomb on the last play of the half. He was sacked.
Through his career, he commuted between Mississippi and California. “I’m a country boy, and the country’s a long way from here,” he said last year.
Now he’s home to stay.
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