Banged-up Woodson Hoping to Play Sunday

Veteran safety eager to play vs. Chargers despite sore ribs, and eager to return to Oakland next season, too

Raiders safety Charles Woodson may be 37 years old, but he’s been better this season than anyone could have anticipated.

The former Heisman Trophy winner – all the way back in 1997 when he was at Michigan – has been the foundation of a rebuilt Oakland secondary. Playing all 14 games, he has 79 tackles from his free safety spot, a sack, two passes defensed, an interception and three forced fumbles.

“He’s done everything we’ve asked of him to do,” Raiders head coach Dennis Allen said this week. “He’s continued to try and work and get things corrected. He’s been a great asset to our organization.”

Much has gone wrong for the Raiders again in 2013, with the team at 4-10 and limping along with a four-game losing streak heading into Sunday’s matchup with the Chargers in San Diego. But Woodson has turned out to be one of the team’s best offseason moves, providing leadership on a defense in which just two starters returned from 2012. Then, one of those returners, safety Tyvon Branch, was lost to injury in September.

For a man approaching 40, Woodson has been incredibly durable. He missed his first practice of the season Wednesday because of sore ribs. He took a shot to his body last week in the loss to the Chiefs that still hurts, and took a day off. But he’s expected to play Sunday.

He’d also like to play next season, as well, in Oakland. He signed a one-year deal to return to the Raiders this season after seven seasons in Green Bay, but now has expressed a desire to re-sign with the team.

“I think this is the only place I would play,” Woodson said last week in a radio interview on 95.7 The Game. “If that weren’t to happen, I would have to decide whether to go someplace else and do it again for another year. If I’m wanted here, I’m coming back.”

Woodson had one of his best games against the Chargers in early October in the Raiders’ 27-17 victory. He had an interception, tipped away a pass and had four tackles in what probably has been Oakland’s best victory of the season. The highlights have been few and far between for the Raiders and Woodson in 2013, but he’d still very much like to be part of general manager Reggie McKenzie’s rebuilding program going into 2014, offering leadership and solid play as a bridge to the future.

“It’s been disappointing as far as the record, but I think this team and this organization are going in the right direction,” he said on The Game. “And I’m very happy and proud to be part of that transition, hopefully going forward as well.”

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