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  • Writer's pictureWright Author Books

Raiders Teammate Howie Long

I believed in conditioning and practicing hard, knowing that it would prepare me for the stress and struggle of games. My usual practice partner was perennial All-Pro, Pro Bowler, and future Hall of Famer Howie Long.


This man was an animal. He possessed a little something extra that elevated his game to another plane. In addition to his power and unmatched intensity, he was both physically and mentally quick, with the ability to pivot to plan B or C on a dime. To say that he kept me and many others on their toes would be an understatement. But I was grateful to have him as a practice partner, as he forced me to heighten my reflexes and up my game.


There was never much small talk during practice—just strap it on, go to work, and know when to back off at the end of a play. Every Wednesday was deemed offense day when the defense offered a look at what we would face from our opponents in the upcoming game. During these drills, the initial steps were always at full speed to establish contact and then get our heads and hands in the right spots. If we didn’t throttle back quickly after that, it wouldn’t end well. This was learned from endless hours of banging and watching a few guys go too far.


But every so often, someone had a bad day and crossed over the thin line that would inevitably end with a little push away and a visual or verbal warning. And then there was the one practice where the line was blown to pieces.


Howie just had an epidural injection in his spine and was feeling a little edgy when our center, Bill Lewis, got a lot more than a preview. Tempers ran short when Bill told Howie to fuck off at the end of a play. Everything came to a halt as we prepared for the other shoe to drop.


Howie snapped back, “What did you just say?” There was a collective sigh among the players and coaches in earshot as everyone knew what was coming, and it wouldn’t be good for Bill. In the best-case scenario, he would be maimed, but there was always the worst-case to consider, too. In a flash, Howie figuratively left the building. He morphed into a typhoon of rage, and before Bill got a response out of his lips, he was fast asleep.


It was akin to watching a high-rise implosion. Bill found himself on the wrong end of a Mike Tyson-style uppercut that looked like a cap popping off a well-shaken Coke. Shit was flying everywhere. Bill’s mouthguard flew one way, his helmet another, and his two front teeth pierced through his bottom lip, all in less than a second.


Howie got in some hot water for damaging Al Davis’s product, while Bill, with mouth stitches secured, rejoined practice without uttering another word. I suspect the bad blood would persist throughout the season in any other profession, but not in football. These two were joking around before the next game, as everyone recognized that the aggression was sometimes a challenge to contain. It was just part of the business.


More on this story and many others in my memoir, Aggressively Human, available here: Amazon: Aggressively Human. You can also request signed copies via wrightauthorbooks@gmail.com.



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