NAPA – Charles Woodson knows Khalil Mack well. Legendary defensive back and young bull edge rusher were Raiders teammates for two seasons in 2014-15.
Woodson was the unquestioned leader then. Before calling it a career, Woodson made sure Mack was ready to assume a prominent role in the Raiders locker room.
Mack's a quiet guy, but Woodson taught him to lead his own way, to find his own voice as a face of the franchise.
Mack hung on every word then. There's little doubt he listened to Woodson's wisdom this offseason. Woodson advised Mack on how to handle his contract holdout, which started with the offseason program and has carried into training camp.
Mack's looking for a huge payday, maybe one that sets the market for defensive players.
"You guys watched Khalil for the last four years," Woodson said Thursday after attending a Raiders training camp practice. "You've watched him in the league. You've watched him grow as a player. You've watched him win defensive player of the year. He's a young player trying to get paid. I don't fault any man for that."
Woodson understands that plight. After all, he held out of training camp searching for a long-term extension in 2004 and 2005, after being given the exclusive-rights franchise tag two years in a row.
Woodson, for one, didn't miss training camp while away. He advise Mack how to deal with the down time.
"I talked to Khalil briefly and told him, ‘whenever you come back, no matter what happens with your deal or if you get a new one, come back ready,'" Woodson said. "The time I spent away from training camp, I made sure that, when I came back, I was in tip-top condition. It's always different once you put the pads on and you're hitting and getting knocked down. But, when it came to running around and playing well, I was able to do that. My advice to him is, no matter when you come back, be ready. You don't want anybody saying anything about your conditioning. You have to be ready. I think he'll do well in that respect.
Woodson's readiness never wavered in the mid 2000s, though he eventually left the Silver and Black for Green Bay. The Raiders never committed to signing him a long-term deal. He had to go elsewhere.
These Raiders want to keep Mack long term, and understand doing so will be expensive.
"Any team is going to have limits on what they feel they can do and what they won't do," Woodson said. "You have to navigate that. He's a smart guy. He'll figure it out. Where does Khalil take it from here? I'm sure his agents have talked to the team and the team has responded and put in offers and counteroffers and we're where we are right now. For him, he has to figure it out."