NAPA, Calif. — Mike Haynes has not changed.
When he sees a threat, he runs to cover it.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame cornerback was among the more than 100 ex-Raiders players who attended the club’s annual alumni weekend, which concluded Sunday. Between the smiles, handshakes and autographs, his tone shifted when discussing the Raiders’ impending relocation to Las Vegas.
As an active player and also in retirement, Haynes has experienced the Raiders’ home-field advantage throughout California and its impact on a team.
He expressed trepidation of the unknown that awaits the NFL club in Las Vegas, citing the entertainment industry’s presence that could attract more non-Raiders fans than usual to games.
Haynes, 66, is not predicting the Las Vegas Raiders will founder.
Rather, like a defensive back responding to a receiver’s pre-snap motion, he wants to make a call and flag a potential issue.
“Because it’s in Las Vegas, (the stadium) is going to be hugely popular,” Haynes said. “I keep mentioning the fact that I’m afraid the Raiders will lose their home-field advantage to make the fans aware that that could happen and even the league and even the Raiders executives that it could happen, so they can manage that. …
”I figure that (Raiders) tickets are going to be like Super Bowl tickets every home game. Even the Raiders fans who are die-hard Raiders fans will be challenged on their loyalty: Would you come to the game, or (would you) sell your tickets to some other team’s fans to watch their team that’s coming in? Which one would you do? I’m hoping that Raiders fans will remain loyal, and the team will win, and that will be enough encouragement for the fans to want to keep their tickets.”
The logic is justifiable.
A weekend trip to Las Vegas does seem easy to circle on any visiting fan’s calendar. For 2020, the Raiders’ known opponents are the New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills along with the three other AFC West teams.
To Haynes’ point, there figures to be no shortage of demand for a Raiders season-ticket holder looking to sell seats on the secondary market.
That said, it’s a weekend getaway for out-of-town Raiders fans, too, and the overall appeal of Las Vegas — and a domed 65,000-seat stadium that gives the franchise the state-of-the-art home it’s lacked for decades — could influence a visit even in a hypothetical losing season.
Haynes, part of the 1983-1984 Super Bowl team, noted that he believes the Raiders’ move will benefit the league.
“As I said before, I’m not sure about the Raiders fans,” he said. “But for the NFL, I think it’s great because a lot of people from around the globe, they come to Las Vegas. They love it. It’s the entertainment capital. I think that now they’ll come watch American football games. As more and more people come to Las Vegas, I think it will be good for the game eventually.”
Haynes, a San Diego resident, has seen the Raiders overrun visiting stadiums.
He has been invited to various alumni functions and fan-organized events. He has interacted with season-ticket holders who have followed the club before his 1983-1989 tenure. The passion surrounding the Raiders, he said, gives him optimism regarding the future atmosphere inside the dome.
He merely raises the concern when he can.
“They’re die-hard fans, and I would hate for anything to happen to that,” Haynes said. “I don’t think anything can stop that. I think Raiders fans will continue to support their team.”