There’s no in between how teams feel about Oakland Raiders linebacker Bill Romanowski – either you love him or you hate him.
If he’s your teammate, he’s easy to love because winning seems to follow him. If you are his opponent, you hate him because you think he’s a borderline dirty son-of-a-bleep.
“I definitely have an on-and-off switch, but it's been on for about a month,” Romanowski said. “I'm a little irritable. I've been a little salty. It's almost here, and I just want to win. There are 32 teams in the National Football League, and I don't like 31 of them. This week it's Tampa, and I'm sure they don't like me either.”
Love him or hate him, Romanowski is trying to become just the second player in NFL history to collect five Super Bowl rings when the Raiders take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday in San Diego for Super Bowl XXXVII.
“Five Super Bowl rings -- that would be pretty special,” Romanowski said. “Only one other guy in the history of the game has accomplished that, and that's Charles Haley. He is a unique man. Obviously, we played together (in San Francisco) and I have a lot of respect for him. When he got on the field, it was all about business. You have to like that.”
Romanowski played on two Super Bowl winning teams as a San Francisco 49er (1988-1989) and two more for the Denver Broncos (1997-1998). Charles Haley, a former teammate of Romanowski, played for two in San Francisco (1988-1989) and three more in Dallas (1992-1993, 1995).
Now that Washington Redskins cornerback Darrell Green retired after the 2002 season, the only two players still active from a Super Bowl winning team fromj the 1980s are Raider wide receiver Jerry Rice, also a former 49er, and Romanowski.
Romanowski’s name may never be mentioned among the NFL’s all-time elite linebackers. He has been a Pro Bowler just twice in his 15 seasons.
While Romanowski has enjoyed a solid but not elite career, he brings an aura and a swagger that his teammates embrace and opponents disdain. Raider fans used to lustily boo Romanowski as a Bronco. When he signed a free agent contract to play for the Raiders after the 2001 season, the jeers became cheers.
“Every team I play against is the enemy,” Romanowski said. “That’s how I feel this week. Tampa Bay is the enemy and I’m sure they feel the same way about us. People have said my style of play fits the Raider reputation. I’ve always been one of the most hated players and now I’m on one of the most hated teams. I play every play like it’s my last. When the game’s over, you had whatever I’ve got.”
Vince D’Adamo can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org