Dozens of Oakland football players in town this week, but only one is a Raider.
Only one has been arrested seven times.
Only one has been injured after falling on a dance floor and writhing in an apparent drug-induced frenzy.
Only one once offered a policeman a $300 bribe.
Only one glares like The Stork, flexes like The Tooz and parties like The Snake.
He is Sebastian Janikowski, The Last Raider, and we approach him Thursday with one of those cliche Super Bowl questions.
“Did you miss a game last year because you had your testicles pierced?”
“I heard about that.”
“And it’s wrong, it’s bull, it never happened.”
“But teammates say that, while officials announced you missed a game with a foot infection, it was really because of a piercing infection.”
“I don’t know who says that, I have no piercings down there.”
“Everybody says that.”
“You don’t believe me? Here, I’ll show you.”
With that, Janikowski rises from his seat in Qualcomm Stadium and reaches for his waistband.
The world, as the Raider Nation knows it, is coming to an end.
Their quarterback is a role model. One wide receiver is an American hero. Another wide receiver is the epitome of grace. Their veteran safety is classy. Their head coach is humble.
And now, of all things, their kicker refuses to take credit for a testicle piercing.
How in the world are they going to beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday in the Super Bowl?
“I don’t even drink anymore,” Janikowski says.
“After my DUI, my eyes were opened,” he says. “I have not had a drink since. I don’t need alcohol to have fun.”
Before Violator begins biting the spikes off his shoulder pads, a bit of an explanation.
Janikowski was such a perfect Raider that, when drafted in the first round two springs ago, he wept.
He had been drinking alcohol since he was a child in his native Poland. He came to this country when he was 15 and promptly became a pool shark. He attended Florida State, where Bobby Bowden was so impressed with his leg that he changed the rules to accommodate his late nights.
“I enjoy my life,” Janikowski recalls in his clipped English. “I don’t want to be 50-year-old and say, why did I not do this, why did I not do that?”
Judging from his first two seasons as a Raider, that to-do checklist included floundering around on the floor of San Francisco’s seedy Snowdrift Lounge after reportedly ingesting a date-rape drug.
“No,” he says of last year’s celebrated incident. “I’m just a bad dancer.”
By the end of last season, though, his act had been wearing Biletnikoff-thin.
During a late three-game losing streak that forced the Raiders to endure the playoffs in the snow in New England, he disappeared into a personal Black Hole.
In one game, he missed three field goals that cost them the victory.
In another game, he couldn’t play because of that infection that officials termed “cellulitis.” He says his foot was infected when he cut it in a hot tub. Angry teammates say otherwise.
Whatever, his replacement, Brad Daluiso, missed a field goal and extra point in a two-point loss.
By the time the season ended, the team’s veterans were reportedly furious with Janikowski’s consistently bad behavior, and quarterback Rich Gannon even hinted that disciplinary action was needed.
“A lot of things he did, they were not accepted by his teammates,” recalls Bob Casullo, special teams coordinator.
Then came this October, when Janikowski was arrested after driving an alleged 86 mph, with an alcohol level of .20, or more than double California’s legal limit of .08.
Of all the dumb things he had done in his life, this was dumbest, and he knew it.
(Well, maybe the time he tried to run over reporter Sam Farmer with his car was dumber, but at least he was sober at the time).
When evil emperor Al Davis himself summoned him for a scolding, that convinced him.
“I was acting like a 10-year-old, and I wanted to be older than that,” Janikowski says. “I have too much to lose, man. I could stop. I had to stop.”
So, he says, he stopped.
And while many still don’t quite believe it, the evidence backs him up.
He finished with his best season, the second-best season of any kicker in Raider history, leading AFC kickers in points and the NFL in touchbacks.
“He’s definitely more focused,” Casullo says. “He’s more concerned with serving the Raiders.”
He should have made the Pro Bowl, but he didn’t, and that gave more resolve to his restraint.
Says Janikowski: “People held it against me because of my past.”
Says Casullo: “I said, ‘Se-bass, you didn’t make the Pro Bowl because you weren’t the best kicker, you didn’t make it because of who people think you are. You’ve got to keep changing that.’ ”
So here we sit, and Janikowski says he has spent the week watching movies and video games.
He says if the Raiders win a championship, he won’t even drink the champagne.
“I can’t drink,” Janikowski says. “I’ll get in trouble.”
And in this new silver and black world, that’s a bad thing.
At least until Monday.
“I can’t show you out here,” the Last Raider says, ending the piercing controversy by keeping his pants on. “But maybe we go inside?”
Bill Plaschke can be reached at email@example.com.
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)
Sebastian Janikowski led AFC kickers in points with 128 and was 50 for 50 on extra points. He also led the NFL in touchbacks. A look at his field-goal statistics:
*--* 2002-03 playoffs: G M/A LG 20-29 30-39 40-49 50+ 2 5/6 43 1-2 3-3 1-1 0-0
*--* 2002 regular season: G M/A LG 20-29 30-39 40-49 50+ 16 26/33 51 10-11 7-8 7-12 2-2
*--* 2001 regular season: G M/A LG 20-29 30-39 40-49 50+ 15 23/28 52 7-7 9-10 6-9 1-2