NAPA – Charles Woodson can relate to Johnathan Abram.
The surefire Pro Football Hall of Famer played Abram's position. He rocked the prestigious Raiders No. 24, and always walked with plenty of swagger.
Woodson spoke to the Raiders first-round draft pick briefly after Thursday's joint practice between the Raiders and Rams, and delivered an important message.
Don't tone it down.
Abram was the breakout star of Tuesday's "Hard Knocks," season premiere, showing a willingness to talk trash, have fun even with superiors and hit really, really hard even when he's not supposed to.
Fans formulate opinions fast based on what NFL Films let them see, and views of Abram through the "Hard Knocks" lens have been somewhat polarizing. A vocal minority dislikes his brash, fun-loving persona. He comes across as genuine in person, and shows great drive and passion for football.
The Raiders love that. Woodson does, too, and told Abram not to be saying by critics.
I said, ‘that edge you have, don't lose it,'" Woodson said. "There are a lot of people with a lot of opinions of him right now. Don't lose that edge, man, because if you start doing what other people want you to do, you won't be who you're supposed to be."
Woodson didn't want to compare Abram to anybody else, but says there's plenty to like about the Mississippi State product.
"I like the confidence. I do," Woodson said. "At the end of the day, it's going to be about what he does between the lines. You can talk, but if you back it up, nobody's going to have a problem with that. If you're out there making plays, you can say whatever you want to say."
Abram had made some in training camp, and looked good during joint practices against the L.A. Rams. There's only so much he can prove until the regular season, when he'll be a valued member of the defensive backfield.
He won't change his attitude or demeanor, and will continue to play his way.
"My philosophy is what Coach Gruden tells us every day. Just be yourself," Abram said. "You know, don't change up, just be yourself because that's all that matters, at the end of the day."