The Raiders returned to Alameda for their second Organized Team Activity on Tuesday, but this time with a veteran defensive back in familiar territory.
16-year veteran Charles Woodson returned to the Oakland Raiders practice facility on Tuesday for the first time in seven years. Woodson entered the NFL after being drafted by Al Davis and the Raiders in 1998 and wore the Silver & Black for eight years, but played his last seven years with the Green Bay Packers after leaving during free agency.
Woodson referred to Oakland as his “second home” when talking to the media following practice and certainly seemed right at home when talking about his return to the Raiders.
“It feels good, you know, it really does,” Woodson said. “It feels good to put the Silver & Black back on. It’s been a long time and I think I look good in the Silver & Black, so it’s good to be back.”
Along with his knowledge in the defensive backfield, Woodson also brings a confidence to the team along with leadership qualities that this team needs.
“I said this the other day: Charles Woodson plays th game with a little bit of a swagger and that’s what the real good teams do. So, hopefully he’ll bring some of that with him to our football team,” Raiders head coach Dennis Allen said of his new defensive back.
Woodson doesn’t want to step on any of the coach’s toes and give input when it isn’t needed, but he expects his leadership to be shown in his actions, but will give advice when asked.
“For the most part I’m a lead-by-example type of guy,” Woodson said. “I don’t want to go around any coaches and what they coach or what they do, but when there’s an opportunity to step in and give some input on whatever that may be, than I will do that.”
There’s no question that players are going to want to get advice from the long-tenured defensive back, and safety Usama Young won’t shy away from it.
“It’s one of those situations where you want the best players to be on your team and a guy like that, everybody knows Charles Woodson: probably going to be a Hall of Famer, a Pro Bowler, All-Pro, you know he started his career here,” Young said. “I’m looking forward to picking his brain a little bit the same way that I’d do with any other vet that’s been a good player in this league, an elite player in this league.”
Woodson played in 106 games for the Raiders from 1998-2005 and racked up 456 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 14 forced fumbles, 17 interceptions, two touchdowns and 83 passes defensed while making the Pro Bowl his first four years in his first stint with the Raiders.
The free agent safety was expected to sign with the Denver Broncos but chose to sign with the rival Oakland Raiders and go back to the team he has spent the most time with in his career.
“When talking with Charles when he came in on the visit, it was apparent to me that he wanted to be a part of the Raiders,” Allen said. “This is a tradition-rich organization and I think he can see some of the things that we are doing to try and get back to those winning ways.”
Woodson acknowledges that his desire to help getting the Raiders back to winning is something he aspires and bought into Allen’s assertion that they are not rebuilding and are trying to win now.
“I was really sold on the fact that they believe in the guys that they’ve got here. Of course you can always use more, you know what I mean, and as the years come up they’ll be able to do some more things but they really had a lot of faith in the guys that they’ve got on the roster right now. Who knows where this team will be at the end of this season, but I was convinced that this team will compete, this team will be in games. We look forward to going out there and wearing the Silver & Black proudly.”
General manager Reggie McKenzie and Allen had some assistance in convincing Woodson as members of Raider Nation assembled a rally to welcome him back to Oakland when he arrived at Raiders headquarters last Tuesday.
“It was a great feeling,” Woodson said of the fans’ rally last week. “I was here eight years and we had some ups and downs, but we had some great years and I know what it’s like to have this fan base behind you and that’s a big deal, there’s a lot of energy here. A lot of these guys don’t know that feeling to be that type of team here and have the fans behind you. To have the fans here at the facility last week welcoming me back meant a lot and I appreciate Raider Nation for that.”
Though it does all feel familiar for Woodson, there is one big difference between the organization he knew before his departure and the one he came back to.
“I mean really the only difference is: the big guy’s not here, nd I think that’s really it.” Woodson said referring to late owner Al Davis. “Knowing that you’re not going to see him coming on the field at any point in time this season, is really the different feeling to this organization. But I know that the organization is in good hands with Mark [Davis] taking over and bringing in Reggie to come in here and try to get the Raiders back on the right track.”
The veteran practiced on Tuesday with a plain back jersey as fellow defensive back Tracy Porter currently dons the #24 jersey for the Raiders and all other numbers in the 20′s and 30′s are taken. Porter wore #22 in Denver and New Orleans, which is currently occupied by Taiwan Jones.
“I can’t find a number man, everything’s taken,” Woodson said. “Moving forward, we’ll try and get that worked out but right now I’m just ‘blank man.’”
Young, who played with Porter in New Orleans, says there’s going to have to be some negotiating done between Porter and Woodson to settle it.
“Tracy’s probably been hearing from everyone: ‘aye, you’ve got to give Woodson that 24,’” Young said while laughing. “I wasn’t sure if he was going to wear #24 or #21, but I don’t know, coming out in that black jersey, I don’t know, we’ll see. There’s going to be some numbers crunched in the locker room probably.”
Woodson acknowledged that he may have to turn to negotiating if he’s set on wearing the number 24, as he did during his first stint with the Silver & Black.
“I guess that’s what I’m going to have to do,” Woodson said with a smile. “It wasn’t waiting on me in my locker, so I’ll have to negotiate that for sure.”