After the Raiders set NFL records in 2011 for penalties and penalty yards, rookie coach Dennis Allen made it a top priority to field more disciplined team.
Until recently, the plan seemed to be working.
That’s why several Oakland players were caught off guard by comments made this week by Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Tamba Hali, who told a Kansas City newspaper the Raiders are a “dirty” team whose players “cheap shot” opponents, and said it was a tradition in the games between the AFC West rivals.
A few years ago that might have elicited a more profound reaction from the Raiders, but this is clearly not the same franchise it was when late owner Al Davis was calling the shots.
Allen brushed off Hali’s comments while players like defensive back Michael Huff and fullback Marcel Reece laughed.
“If somebody’s talking about you, you’re doing something right,” Reece said Thursday. “We play hard, we don’t play dirty. Obviously divisional opponents are going to feel it a little more because it’s a rivalry.”
Hali’s comments came on the heels of Oakland’s two most penalized games of the season. The Raiders had 12 penalties in a loss to Atlanta on Oct. 14, then picked up nine more in Sunday’s win over Jacksonville. They had 19 total through the first four weeks.
Reducing penalties has been a primary concern for almost every Raiders coach. Before the recent backslide, Oakland had been more disciplined despite a rough start in the standings. The Raiders (2-4) have 40 penalties but only three have been for unnecessary roughness and they’ve been whistled only once for roughing the quarterback.