It’s been a dozen years since the Dallas Cowboys played a regular season game against the Oakland Raiders in Oakland Coliseum.
Only tight end Jason Witten and long snapper L.P. Ladouceur were on the 2005 team that made the last trip to the legendary venue known for its “Black Hole” in the end zone seats at Oakland-Alameda Coliseum.
But Witten has vivid memories of the day.
“There’s nothing like seeing a 70-year-old grandma yelling and screaming at you when you get off the bus,” Witten said, smiling. “But they support them and it’s a tough environment to play. We expect that’s going to be the case come Sunday night.”
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Coach Jason Garrett chuckled when told of Witten’s grandma comment, saying, “That probably captures it. We all have those. It’s really an iconic place to play. So many great players and coaches and teams have played there through the years.”
The Cowboys lost that 2005 match-up 19-13. Drew Bledsoe was the starting quarterback and Bill Parcells was the coach.
Witten caught five passes for 49 yards, and it marked Ladouceur’s professional debut.
Everybody on the Cowboys is eager to get back there for a meaningful game. They’ve played a couple preseason contests, but nothing with as much at stake as there will be Sunday night.
“That’s a legendary place. A ton of history there,” linebacker Sean Lee said. “The fans are a lot of fun. This is my first time to play there in a prime-time game, so we’re excited for it. We know it’s going to be a tough test, but that’s what it’s all about.”
The heckling should be at an all-time high between these two storied franchises. And Raiders fans do their homework, as Cowboys running back Alfred Morris found out in 2013 as a member of the Washington Redskins.
Morris remembers he had to exit that game early with a rib injury.
“I was coming back [of the training room], and they said, ‘Yeah, Morris you suck, you're afraid to finish the game,’” Morris said. “And I'm like 'Uh no, that's not the case, but that's cool though.'
“It's kind of like a college atmosphere. You always have the fans kind of jeering for you. And they do their homework on you and they know stuff and you're like, 'How you know that?’”
The Cowboys have a few players who spent time in the Raiders organization in wide receiver Brice Butler and defensive end Benson Mayowa. Cornerback Chidobe Awuzie is from the Bay Area, too, and understands the passion amongst that fan base.
Oakland-Alameda Coliseum was built in 1966. It seats 56,057 with natural grass.
Mayowa is just happy to be playing when the field is all grass. The early season games feature a good portion of dirt as it’s also home to the Oakland A’s baseball team.
“Once they put the grass down, it’s pretty awesome,” Mayowa said. “But that baseball field? You don’t want to get tackled on it. That skin is coming all up. You got tats? You won’t have no tats after.
“It’s a fun environment, though. It’s definitely a fun environment.”
This will mark the last time the Cowboys visit the historic stadium, too, as the Raiders are moving to Las Vegas in 2019. There weren’t many supporters of that decision within the Cowboys’ locker room.
“I wanted the Raiders to stay in Oakland just because it’s like a culture,” said Awuzie, who grew up in nearby San Jose. “It’s part of a culture. The Raiders are always a hard-nosed team and obviously Oakland is a hard-nosed place to live.
“It’s sad to see them leave. Hopefully, they keep that same culture (in Las Vegas).”