Greg Townsend and Sam Williams sign autographs in Raiderville. Photo by Tony Gonzales
Prior to the pivotal Week 12 matchup between the Oakland Raiders and Chicago Bears, Raider Legends Greg Townsend and Sam Williams signed autographs and spoke to fans of the Silver and Black during the Raiderville pregame tailgate party. Jim Kozimor of CSN Bay Area hosted the panel discussion while fans had the opportunity to ask questions of the former players.
Townsend engaged the crowd the first chance he got. "Being out here with you guys makes me want to suit up again and play," he said. The crowd responded with a roar of support.
"I bleed the Silver and Black just like the fans do," said Williams, in response to being so warmly welcomed back by the fans. "It really is an honor to be out here today. I'm glad to be a part of the Raider Nation family."
Kozimor began the questioning by asking the defensive stalwarts about their impressions of the 2011 Raiders.
"Carson Palmer - that's who I see making the big difference in this year's football team," replied Townsend. "This guy is smart. He's picked up the playbook in such a short amount of time."
"I would have to say the --line and the running backs," added Williams. "That's the biggest difference I've seen. If you can run the ball, you can win. Plus, it keeps us defensive guys off the field."
Williams, having played with the Raiders from 2003-2010, provided first-hand accounts of RB Michael Bush's contributions to the running game. "Bush is so deceptive. He's a big guy, but he's so smooth and so fast. He might be one of the best athletes on the team just from his coordination and his skill set. To have a combination of size, speed and strength is rare."
Kozimor then acknowledged the late Al Davis' football intuition in taking Bush late in the draft when other teams passed on him because of injury concerns.
Townsend concurred with Kozimore. "Al had been around football for so long, he had that foresight," said Townsend. "He looked past [Bush's] broken leg and gave him a chance."
Subsequent questions from fans focused on the players themselves. One man wearing a No. 12 Jacoby Ford jersey poked into their respective psyches on game days now that their playing days are over.
"I still get pumped up, but the only thing I can do about that is get down and do some push ups and sit ups," Townsend joked. On the other hand, the former Pro-Bowler reiterated his desire to get out there on the field.
Williams later said with a laugh, "I wake up Monday still sore after watching the game."
Another fan inquired about their favorite memories from their careers. "Playing in Super Bowl XVIII," replied Townsend. "That's one of those feelings that still to this day I cannot describe to you guys. What I miss is [the Raiders] going back to the Super Bowl to get some more of those victories for the fans."
The Raiders Legends' presence in Raiderville and contributions to the coaching staff are symbolic of Coach Jackson's and the organization's willingness to include the greats of old in the current manifestation of the Silver and Black – both on and off the field. In this way both the players and fans get to reap the benefits of the franchise all-timers. Continuity of the Raider tradition is what this franchise is all about.