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5 ways how the Raiders (may have) cheated

Editor’s note: This is part of an occasional series acquainting fans with the Raiders’ illustrious 60-year history as the team moves to Las Vegas for the 2020 season.

A widely held perception about the Raiders is that they are not above bending the rules to gain a competitive edge.

You could write a book about it.

“Cheating is Encouraged: A Hard-Nosed History of the 1970s Raiders” is available in hardback, paperback and on Kindle. Former Raiders wide receiver Mike Siani is credited as the author, though if one had to guess, the story probably was told to a sports writer.

But their notorious reputation notwithstanding, a website called Your Team Cheats ranked the Raiders as only “a touch above” most NFL cheaters based on their past transgressions.

Here are five examples of how the Raiders might have bent the rules during the 1970s and beyond:

1. Alternate forearm pads: “We had a guy named George Anderson (who) was an expert in pads — probably most of them illegal,” former Raiders linebacker Phil Villapiano said. “He would take stuff that you make casts from and mold it for me … so when I hit somebody like, boom!”

2. Bugging the visitors locker room: Harland Svare, the former San Diego Chargers coach, was said to have once looked up to the light fixture and cursed: “Damn you, Al Davis. I know you’re up there.” Davis pleaded the fifth. Sort of. “I can tell you one thing,” said the Raiders’ former coach, GM and owner. “The damn thing wasn’t in the fixture.”

3. Inflating the football: Long before the Patriots were accused of deflating a football to suit quarterback Tom Brady, the Raiders were accused of doing the opposite for Hall of Fame punter Ray Guy. Instead of taking the air out of the ball, the Raiders were charged with pumping helium into it during a 1977 game against the Oilers, providing Guy with even more hang time than usual.

4. Flooding the field: Whenever the Raiders played a team with a high-powered offense, there was circumstantial evidence the Oakland Coliseum ground crew had neglected to turn off the sprinklers the night before. Recalled former Patriots tight end Steve Zabel: “When we went out to play, the field was sloppy, muddy and wet, and the grass was about six inches long.”

5. Tankgate? According to former Raiders wide receiver Tim Brown, Raiders coach Bill Callahan threw Super Bowl XXXVII as a favor to his former boss, then Tampa Bay Bucs (and now Raiders) coach Jon Gruden, by changing the game plan at the last minute. Put this one in the Grassy Knoll file, but leave it to the Raiders to accuse themselves of underhanded tactics.

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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