ALAMEDA -- A punter? Addressing the locker room after a big victory? And talking about grinding out the rest of the season because of what's at stake?There would be no stranger scene in all of the NFL. Unless that locker room belonged to the Raiders, and that punter was Shane Lechler."It's a good deal to be 7-4," Lechler told his excited teammates following Sunday's victory over Chicago in an iconic video captured by Raiders.com and published by NFL.com. "Everybody's happy, but guess what -- we've got a lot of football to play, men. We've got a whole lot of football to play. Some tough games coming up. Let's keep on the grind. I'm telling you, we've got to keep on the grind. If you want to keep this feeling, keep grinding."
Three days later, Lechler's sentiments were still being felt not only in the halls of the Raiders' facility, but throughout the streets of Silver and Blackdom. And not in spite of Lechler being a punter, but, probably because he is a punter. The best punter of his generation, if not of all time.That carries weight. As does the job he did against the Bears, limiting Devin Hester to a combined seven punt-return yards on two returns and booming one punt a franchise-record 80 yards."I think guys listen to guys who get it done," said defensive tackle Richard Seymour, who played with a similarly-respected specialist in New England in placekicker Adam Vinatieri."And (Shane is) a combination of both, where he's a veteran leader and also, he's a great player."Consider: Lechler entered this season with the highest career punting average in NFL history at 47.29 yards. Currently, Lechler's 51.5 yards-per-punt average for the season not only leads the league, but would break Sammy Baugh's single-season record of 51.40 yards, set in 1940 for Washington.And Lechler's 38.8-yards net average over his career ranks third in league history, but his 43.85 net average in 2009 is the single-season mark.Yeah, he's got a resume that would make any player stop and take E.F. Hutton-like notice."No one's going to listen to someone that's not getting it done," said safety Mike Mitchell. "We respect Shane because he's a guy that's getting it done. Sometimes I'll make jokes like, Shane still is a kicker, but at the end of the day, man, that dude, he's not getting paid like a kicker, he's doesn't play like your average kicker."When something needs to be said, he's going to be one of the guys to say it, and we're all going to listen."Lechler, drafted out of Texas A&M in the fifth-round of the 2000 draft, said he had addressed the locker room following a game "maybe" once before."I try to be accepted as a football player," Lechler said. "I hang out with the guys on and off the field as much as possible, although it's kind of getting harder to relate to these guys when you're my age."Lechler, 35, laughed."I hang out with all the guys all the time," he added, "and hopefully I'm not looked at as just a punter."He was looked at as a disgruntled punter in the wake of Tom Cable's dismissal in January. Lechler famously blasted Al Davis' decision to part ways with Cable and many wondered if that would affect his relationship with first-year coach Hue Jackson.Instead, Jackson insists he leans on Lechler as a team captain to maintain the pulse of the team. And Lechler has accepted such a role."I think (Hue) knew it wasn't personal," Lechler said. "I back my coach, and I'll back Hue the same way. I'm a big believer in stability and that's why I said what I said. I thought I made it clear there was nothing against Hue in the whole situation. It was the fact that I felt we were on our way."Like I said, anything with Hue, I'll back him 100 percent now, too. Like I have most of my head coaches."Lechler smiled when he said "most."But there are no similar semantics when it comes to discussing Lechler, who has seen the highs of a Super Bowl appearance following the 2002 season, the lows of seven straight seasons with at least 11 losses and the seeming resurgence of the Raiders this season."That's exactly how I addressed the team after the game," Lechler said. "This feels awesome, being 7-4, but guess what, a season goes 16 games and we can't even say we're .500 yet. Seven and four feels great, but we've got some tough, tough games."We've never played well in Miami. We lost to them there in our Super Bowl year, then we've got to turn around and go play at probably the best team in the NFL the following week (in Green Bay). With three out of our last five on the road, we've got a lot of football yet."And perhaps, a victorious postgame speech or two from Lechler.