After making the Pro Bowl six times in his seven seasons in New England, Mike Haynes wanted a new contract and played out his old one in 1982 to make it happen. When the Patriots refused to meet his request, he sat out 11 weeks of the 1983 season before a Federal judge approved his trade to the Los Angeles Raiders and his pro football career changed.
There Haynes was teamed with Lester Hayes to form what many consider to be the finest cornerback tandem in pro football history. As Haynes tells Talk of Fame Network’s “5 Games’’ podcast today, count him among those who believe that’s the case.
How that came about is an uproarious story of Hayes’ devotion to Star Wars, his imaginative mind and his belief that it was “predestined’’ he and Haynes would be together in Raider uniforms. Hayes always claimed he’d told Haynes t would happen because “The Force’’ had told him. But did Lester really tell him that during a Pro Bowl meeting?
“Absolutely,’’ Haynes said in today’s final “5 Games’’ podcast of the week. “A lot of times in our locker room Lester would tell us ‘I spoke to Yoda. It’s already predestined.’ He was a force. He elevated my game.’’
Together they became the final parts of a perfect puzzle that led them into Super Bowl XVIII against the defending champion Washington Redskins on January 22, 1983. The Raiders spanked the Redskins that day, 38-9, and Haynes got to play it near his hometown of Los Angeles. He had come full circle.
Redskins’ general manager Bobby Beathard, who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame himself in August, said the Raiders acquiring Haynes that season “tipped the balance heavily in the Raiders’ favor.’’
Does Mike Haynes agree?
“No question we felt we could cover anyone 1-on-1,’’ Haynes said of his combination with Lester Hayes and getting to return home to play in front of his family and friends. “That’s a great feeling now looking back. When you’re in the fire you don’t always have the right appreciation. I’m really happy I got to play in the (L.A.) Coliseum.’’
In this final podcast visit with Mike Haynes he also explains the difference playing for Patriots’ owner Billy Sullivan and the Raiders’ Al Davis and recalls the pressure he felt suing the league to gain his freedom and having it all riding on the ruling of a Federal court judge.
Yet even after he won that freedom and the judge forced the NFL to approve his trade to the Raiders, he now found himself wearing the colors of the team he’d once grown to hate. How’d he come to grips with those conflicted feelings?
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