HOF Mail Bag - Art Shell

Art_ShellArt, It is said that holding could be called on every play. Do you agree or disagree with this? - L. Bell

Possibly, but under the guidelines and the rules as the policy is in the book; all officials have certain guidelines to go by as to what is holding and what is not holding. It has been revamped over the years so possibly that could happen but it is unlikely that that will happen because officials have certain guidelines that they have to utilize.

Mr. Shell, You were a member of one of the NFL'S greatest offensive lines. Has offensive line play diminished in quality since your playing days? If I may, from a fan's point of view I think it has. Why? - Sincerely, Kevin Lewis, Afton, Tennessee

The rules have changed, so the rules are a lot more liberal now than they were when I played. Guys can use their hands a lot more now. Back then you could only use your hands so much. The kids are bigger now, whether they are faster and better, I'm not sure about that. The liberalization of the rules has made offensive line play probably a lot easier for some of the guys that play on the line.

Art_ShellDear Mr. Shell, Who was the hardest defensive lineman or linebacker to handle when you played in the NFL? - Mika Viljanen, Pori, Finland

When I talk about who were the toughest guys I played against, I like to look at the guys that had ability to play both the run and the pass equally. I played against two guys in my mind that I felt that I had to really rise to the occasion in both areas. Those two were Lyle Alzado and Elvin Bethea. One of them is in the Hall of Fame which is Elvin, he just went into the Hall of Fame a few years ago. Those two guys were the two guys that gave me the most problems. Those guys could equally rush the passer and create problems in that area and play the run as well.

How have you seen the game change from your perspective as a rookie in 1968, through your career as a player and coach, up to the present?

It has changed in the sense that there is a lot more passing going on now-a-days; a lot more passing and a lot more blitzing. Teams are bringing a lot of pressure defensively to try to throw at the passing game because most of the coaches now in the National Football League, and you can see it going down to the college and high school ranks also, people believe in throwing the ball. Of course throwing the ball is an exciting part of football but I am a firm believer that you need balance. If you look at the teams that go to the Super Bowl and win the Super Bowl, during the course of that Super Bowl game and during the course of that year, those teams have pretty good balance as far as the run and pass is concerned.

Art_ShellArt. How would you rate the great Raiders' offensive line of the 70s that had you, Gene UpshawJim Otto, George Buehler and Bob Brown  against any other line and how do you think it would hold up today? - Carl Barwick, Caterham, UK.

I think that group we had would stack up against any offensive line that ever played in the National Football League and here's the reason why. In today's football you have more three-step drops and more five-step drops. When we were playing back then, if the Raiders ever threw a three-step drop during the course of the year it might have been five or six times the rest of them were all seven-step drops. So we had to maintain our blocks a whole lot longer than any of the offensive lines back then or any of the offensive lines today because of what we had to do because of our system. The system was designed to throw the ball down the field so that required for the line to block a lot longer so we were accustomed to blocking for seven-step droppers. I could probably go out there and play today if I could stay healthy because they are doing a lot of three and five-step drops.

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