Charles Woodson is 36 years old, so there’s no doubt he’s lost a step or two in pass coverage.
But he’s also gained some football IQ points in his 15-year NFL career, and the veteran safety is eager to show he can still be an impact player on the Raiders after signing with Oakland as a free agent following seven years in Green Bay.
He didn’t return to Oakland just to be a leader and mentor.
“I would have retired if I though I couldn’t go out there and be the best player on the field,” he told the Bay Area News Group recently.
The Raiders, too, are convinced Woodson can be a terrific addition to their revamped secondary. Oakland now goes into the 2013 season with Woodson and Tyvon Branch at the safeties and a cornerback trio of No. 1 draft pick D.J. Hayden, Mike Jenkins and Tracy Porter – a huge upgrade from the defensive backfield of a year ago.
Raiders head coach Dennis Allen says he’s excited to tap into Woodson’s acumen and athleticism. He loves that Woodson brings a wealth of football knowledge.
“He has his ideals and his thought process and he’s not afraid to express his opinion,” said Allen, after the team signed Woodson to a one-year deal worth a reported maximum of $4.3 million, according to ESPN. “We had a great conversation, and I’m looking forward to getting a guy in here like that who can bring that added dimension to the team.”
Allen added that he loves Woodson’s enthusiasm about being back with the Raiders, where he started his career in 1998. Allen calls Woodson “a real pro” who wants “to be a part of what we’re doing here.”
Though Woodson suffered broken collarbones the past two seasons in Green Bay, the Raiders put him through a physical and are confident he’s fine. Woodson, too, says he’s healthy and ready go get going.
With offseason team activities (OTAs) now in session and the start of training camp less than two months away, it won’t be long until Woodson can start showing what he can mean to this defense that was so ravaged by opponents and injuries last season.
“I want to be part of a defense that’s going to be a dominant defense, a defense that keeps us in games, and so I’m excited about that aspect of it and getting with a bunch of guys that ready to fly to the football.”
The revamped secondary should allow the defense to play a more aggressive system in 2013 for Allen and coordinator Jason Tarver. With so many injuries to the secondary in 2012, the Raiders couldn’t play the aggressive brand of defense used by Allen in 2011 when he was defensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos. Without a secure secondary and much of a pass rush, the Raiders were extremely vulnerable to big mistakes and big plays. Veterans Woodson, Porter and Jenkins – if all are fit – should give Oakland a much more solid foundation in pass coverage.
Plus, says Allen, Woodson adds an intangible.
“Charles has that swagger, and I think he can bring some of that to our football team, not just defensively, but to the whole team in general,” Allen told the San Francisco Chronicle.