Raiders considering not kicking to Kansas City special teams star

Updated: October 19, 2003, 5:24 PM ET

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Kick to him? Or boot it out of bounds?

This is the serious strategical question the Oakland Raiders have been pondering as they prepare for their Monday night meeting against unbeaten Kansas City and special teams star Dante Hall.

Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski and punter Shane Lechler all but said that Oakland would do everything in its power to not let Hall touch the ball -- meaning kick away from him.

"I'm not! Kick it out of bounds," Janikowski said. "Kick it high and as deep as I can, I guess. We've got a game plan. I can't tell you where I'm going to kick. I'm pretty sure he's going to bring the ball out no matter how far we kick."

That's a good bet.

Hall entered last Sunday's game with kick return scores in an NFL-record four straight games, including game-winners against Baltimore and Denver. He nearly made it five, but was tripped up by Green Bay punter Josh Bidwell in the second quarter. The Chiefs (6-0) rallied from 17 points down in the fourth to beat the Packers 40-34 in overtime.

"I've seen him catch balls on the 4 and the 8 and return them all the way to the end zone," Lechler said. "I've seen him do a lot of crazy stuff."

The whole situation is beginning to resemble how pitchers walk slugger Barry Bonds.

"That's amazing," Raiders cornerback Charles Woodson said. "I've never been in a groove like that. We've got our work cut out with him."

Any reason to kick to him?

"No!" Woodson said. "Not at all. What he's been able to do is incredible."

That almost worked for Green Bay last week.

Here's how the Packers did it:

Ryan Longwell's opening kickoff went out of bounds at the 10. The next kickoff landed out of bounds at the 2. The Chiefs went three-and-out in both possessions, never gaining more than 8 yards in either series.

The third kickoff landed in the end zone for a touchback. The fourth went to the Kansas City 13 and Hall got credit for a 19-yard return that was limited by a Chiefs' holding penalty.

The next one went to the 4 and Hall returned it only 11 yards. The following one was a touchback.

Green Bay's first punt of the game came 11{ minutes into the third quarter, and it went out of bounds. Bidwell punted again, booting the ball to the Kansas City 26 at the sideline, and Hall returned it 32 yards.

"He caught one 1 foot from the sideline and broke it 32 yards," Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil said.

Another punt sailed 60 yards into end zone for a touchback.

Longwell's next kickoff went to the Kansas City 10 and was right at the out-of-bounds line when Hall grabbed it as his momentum was carrying him out for no yardage on the return.

In overtime, Longwell kicked off to the Kansas City 5, and Hall ran 24 yards.

Hall is even surprising himself with some of his dazzling returns.

"If anything, I would say the vision, because guys are coming from every different angle imaginable," Hall said. "I look at film and I'm saying, 'How did I see that?' or 'How did I know that guy was going to pick up this block, how did I see that?"

Raiders coach Bill Callahan said whether his team kicks to Hall will be determined by field position, but added, "That's a viable option we certainly have."

The reigning AFC champion Raiders (2-4) are desperate for a win. The last time Kansas City came to town -- Dec. 28 last year -- Oakland routed the Chiefs 24-0 in a downpour.

The Raiders realize it won't be as easy this time.

"The boys are playing good ball, they're 6-0," Raiders right guard Mo Collins said. "Congratulations. Everybody in the league is hunting for them."

Hall is the best returner Vermeil has ever coached -- and he's also been at Philadelphia and St. Louis in 13 seasons coaching in the NFL.

"First of all, he is a weapon," Vermeil said. "He's an outstanding young man, he's a tremendous competitor, and he's very, very talented. I had Az Hakim and Tony Horne at the Rams, and they did outstanding things. At Philadelphia, I had John Sciarra, who led the NFC in punt returns.

"When I was a special teams coach, I had the opportunity to coach Alvin Haymond and Travis Williams and these kinds of guys -- Jim Bertelsen, who was a great punt returner for us. So I've been fortunate to always be around good ones. This guy's the best."

This story is from's automated news wire. Wire index