Jack Tatum - Oakland Raiders’ Assassin: Fan’s Look

Jack Tatum is a legendary Oakland Raider who was one of the best and the baddest players to ever put on a helmet. Tatum was called the "Assassin," a name I think he seems to have embraced. He called his 1980 book "They Call Me The Assassin" and called his follow up books: "They Still Call Me Assassin: Here We Go Again" and "Final Confessions of an NFL Assassin."

Surface of an American football ball.
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Jack Tatum first played for the Oakland Raiders during the 1971 season and had four interceptions his very first year. He played for the Silver and Black from 1971-1979, then played his final NFL season in 1980 with the Houston Oilers. He kept a low profile in later life, raising a lot of money for for diabetes research, a condition he suffered from.

I think Jack Tatum was a great player and was a key part of the 1970s Raider machine. Sadly, he is also known as the player who tackled New England Patriots receiver Darryl Stingley in an exhibition game in August of 1978. The impact of the tackle and / or the fall to the ground broke Stingley's neck, leaving him a paraplegic. The hit was a legal hit, Tatum was neither penalized nor punished. Stingley lived for about twenty years after the injury, but eventually died in 2007 as a result of complications from the injury and his medical condition. Do I think Tatum intended to cripple Stingley? No. Do I think he was happy about it? No.

Tatum wrote about the Stingley incident in his third book and to me, it reveals what he thought about the incident, and also confirms what I think. Tatum said: "I understand why Darryl is considered the victim. But I'll never understand why some people look at me as the villain." I agree, Tatum was playing the game, within the rules and made a legal hit. It was his job to tackle Stingley, that's what the Raiders were paying him for. It was an accident, but an accident that changed both men's lives forever.

There is some controversy, as Tatum admitted in his book that he and George Atkinson, the Raiders' other safety, had a bounty program. Points were awarded for knocking players out of the game, with the most points for a hit that caused a player to be carted off. To me, this bounty meant Tatum was hitting people beyond what it takes to make the tackle or play, he was trying to knock them out of the game. Did this extra degree of violence cause Stingley's injury, which later caused his death? I do think the argument can be made that it did.

According to his obituary on espn.com, Tatum never really got over the incident, which I do think is sad. He made an attempt to visit Stingley in the hospital, but was not allowed to by Stingley's family. The two men never met, never had closure.

You won't find Tatum's name all over the Raiders official website, the team doesn't even have an official bio page for this legendary player. His name only appears once in the Raiders History section, as the number five in the Raiders' career interception leaders, with 30. He had 636 yards gained, and a one interception for 66 yards.

Although born and raised with Eagles fans in Philadelphia, Freddy Sherman has always been a citizen of Raider Nation at heart. Since his dad got him a signed George Blanda football as child, to meeting Lyle Alzado in the 1980s, he hasn't looked back. Follow him on twitter @thefredsherman

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Updated Friday, Mar 9, 2012