The last decade hasn't been kind to the Oakland Raiders. I don't think I need to provide specific examples to substantiate that claim. But as one of only six NFL teams without an actual, sideline-roving mascot, they still had some old-school NFL charm. Then Darren Rovell published a picture of what he said was the Raiders' new mascot, the Raider Rusher: A crazy-eyed, torso-less head with a spiked helmet. It did not go over well with pretty much anyone, let alone Raiders devotees.
In reality, though, the Raider Rusher is harmless, and not even a true mascot. (To quote The Hudsucker Proxy, "Ya know, it's for kids!)" Unless you have (or are) a Nickelodeon-savvy child, you probably don't know about NFL Rush Zone, an animated series that involves youths defending the universe – or, at least, the NFL – with the help of Rusherz, alien beings that represent every pro football team.
With Rush Zone gaining popularity, someone in the Raiders organization decided to make their Rusher character a reality. "The team called up and said, 'What about actually taking this character that seems to be resonating with kids and bringing it to life as a mascot?'" says Peter O'Reilly, the NFL's vice president of fan strategy & marketing. "Since they didn't have one, it was something they could tie into their kids activities and community events."
The sorta-mascot has a grin that conveys an "I'm your friend, but I'll also pick my teeth with your femur" vibe, but NFL Rush Zone director Matt Cullen says the design all comes back to Raiders tradition. "They've always been a team that played hard and put it all out on the field. You look at their history with their owner, coaches like John Madden, and guys like Howie Long and Marcus Allen, that tradition was a big deal. So we integrated some of the fun elements you'll see when you go to the stadium, like the spikes."
As of now, the Rusher Raider has not inspired any mall-Santa crying fits. He will be out and about visiting tailgaters and their juvenile counterparts in Raiderville, then appearing at kids' zones in the Oakland Coliseum once games start.
Just don't expect Mr. Rusher to show his gargantuan face in the Black Hole or near the team. According to Raiders flack, there are no plans to have him on the field. Even though he'd probably be safest there.