When Charles Woodson re-signed with the Raiders before this season, the then-38-year-old safety said he was eager to be a part of the franchise’s turnaround.
“For me, man, it would be great if for this next year, man, we got into the playoffs and hopefully make some noise when we get in there,” he told reporters. “So I really want to be a part of that.”
That didn’t quite happen, of course, with the Raiders at 6-8 heading into their final two games of the season, starting with Thursday’s Christmas Eve matchup with the Chargers at O.co Coliseum.
But Woodson, certainly, did everything he could to make it happen, having a terrific season as a leader on and off the football field. Now 39, Woodson has five interceptions, four fumble recoveries and has been in on 64 tackles.
Now, with his announcement late Monday that he will retire at the end of this season, the Raiders will go into the offseason with a huge void to fill in both performance and leadership for defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr.’s unit.
In truth, however, Woodson can’t be replaced.
Woodson, over 18 seasons as a cornerback and safety for the Raiders, the Packers and then the Raiders again, is a certain first-year Hall of Famer. He achieved excellence in high school, college and the NFL. He won the Heisman at Michigan way back in 1997. In 1998, he was the fourth overall pick in the NFL draft by Oakland. He’s been a Pro Bowler eight times and was first-team All-Pro in four seasons. He ranks No. 5 on the NFL’s interception list with 65. And, as Peter King of Sports Illustrated’s Monday Morning Quarterback pointed out, Woodson also is the only NFL player ever to have at least 50 interceptions and 20 sacks.
In 2009, he was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year. That season he had nine interceptions and scored three touchdowns.
Even in his final years in Oakland, when the Raiders struggled, Woodson played through injuries, helped teach younger players what it was like to be a pro and kept making big plays. The Raiders may have been going nowhere, but Woodson was going to the Hall of Fame with his effort and skills on every single play.
Said Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie, who was with Woodson in both Green Bay and Oakland: “Charles Woodson is one of those players that comes along and reminds you why you love the game.”
Woodson on Monday said he wanted to let the Raiders fans know that his appearance against the Chargers Thursday night will be his last in Oakland.
“It’s been an incredible career, man,” Woodson told reporters. “It goes beyond words. You know I never intended on playing as long as I have.”
Somehow, too, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Woodson make one last heroic play against the Chargers to secure a victory and give his fans a farewell gift.