Raiders cornerback Terry McDaniel is only 29 years old, but he sounded like a grandfather at a family reunion when he reminisced about the good old days Tuesday.
Days when men were men and cornerbacks could continually bump eligible receivers as they ran their routes."If you leave it up to me I'd go back to the old rule where you can hit them as long as the ball hasn't been thrown," he said. "That would be nice. I would love to play then."
Unfortunately for McDaniel and other defensive backs around the league, it's not up to him and it's 1994.
Rules are made by the NFL, and these days, the league is concerned about seeing more touchdowns. As part of that effort, it clarified the league's chucking guidelines during the off-season.
The league said rules making it a penalty for a defender to have contact with an eligible receiver beyond 5 yards from the line of scrimmage will be strictly enforced. That means it's hands off after that point.
"Basically, you only get one hit," Raiders cornerback Albert Lewis said. "Unless you take your hands off them, you're going to be flagged if in the official's opinion it's two chucks."
Added James Jett, "I think it really makes it hard on the DBs. They gotta let you go now."
Jett wasn't voicing a complaint. In fact, he could barely conceal his smile. He is one of the Raiders' many receivers who figures to benefit greatly from the refining of the rule.
Jett's small size (5-foot-10, 165 pounds) and speed (he was part of the U.S. 400-meter relay team that won a gold medal in 1992) caused many cornerbacks to play him physical in the past.
They didn't slow him down too much last season. He averaged an NFL-leading 23.4 yards per catch as the Raiders' third wide receiver.
"Last year, they could have a hand on you all the way downfield," Jett said. "It was real bad. They still allow it to a certain extent, but it makes it better for us.
"It helps you do everything (easier), even getting downfield on short routes."
The Raiders appear to have the ideal personnel to take advantage of the new enforcement. With the likes of Jett, Tim Brown and Rocket Ismail, they may have the fastest group of receivers in the league. Five of the Raiders' six touchdowns in their two exhibition games have come on pass plays, all measuring at least 20 yards.
Granted, the Denver Broncos' speed in the secondary is suspect and the depleted Dallas Cowboys' defensive line didn't provide much pressure on the quarterback. But the new standards certainly helped the Raiders' speedy receivers exploit the defense.
"I'm sure it's going to help some," Raiders coach Art Shell said. "But again, that's our philosophy. We're going to try and go deep. We got the people that can get deep and we got the quarterbacks that can get it up there. We'll take our shots down the field."
So it's welcome news by the offense. Defensively it's a different story. McDaniel and Lewis couldn't help but think of times when league rules were friendlier to cornerbacks. The NFL passed a series of rules governing pass coverage during the 1970s. In 1974, the extent of downfield contact a defender could have with a receiver was restricted. Three years later, rule changes prevented defenders from making contact more than once. The 5-yard rule was introduced the next season.
And now . . .
"If you just touch they guy, even if you're not slowing him down or messing with his progress, they're saying they're still going to throw that flag," McDaniel said.
Lewis, a 12-year veteran, said he might be the Raiders' defensive back who is most affected by the change because he take a less aggressive approach than the others.
"My technique is a little softer so I usually wait a little longer to get my chuck . . . sometimes right at the 5-yard line," he said. "If you're going to have to play bump and run you have to be more aggressive and take more risks."
None of which bothers Jett.
"It was funny when we were in the NFL meeting (where the rule changes were explained)," Jett said. "The DBs were (saying), `We can't do that? We can't do this?' . . . We (receivers) were just laughing, saying, `It's great.' "