Every NFL player (and agent) wants to have the words "Pro Bowler" attached to their name. They collect them and agents use them to get their clients more lucrative and long term deals. As for actually playing in the game, however, that has turned into less of an honor and more of a ‘Aw, do I have to?'
For proof of that attitude toward the NFL's annual All Star game, you need only count the number of players who either declined their invitation or couldn't attend for injury or otherwise - 47. That's a record. The equivalent of an entire active NFL game day roster plus an extra player. That's the majority of the original 86-man Pro Bowl roster.
One player who is not taking that honor for granted is Charles Woodson.
He has been named to the Pro Bowl nine times, but this time it's different. This one means a whole lot more to the 18-year pro.
Woodson last made the Pro Bowl in 2011. The last time he actually played in a Pro Bowl was 2001. That's also the last Pro Bowl he made as a Raider.
Most of all, however, is the 39-year-old Woodson is finally hanging them up. Being named to the Pro Bowl in his final NFL season after being left off the Pro Bowl roster for three years is special.
"I'm just soaking it all in," Woodson said Wednesday in an interview with ESPN. "This is my last time coming here to Hawaii as an NFL player. I just get a chance to walk around amongst all the other great players in the league, so that's a lot of fun for me."
There were a great many players who opted out of playing in the Pro Bowl, claiming injury. Many of those same players weren't so injured as to keep them from suiting up for a meaningful game, but the Pro Bowl is meaningless, right?
Woodson dislocated his shoulder in the Raiders season opener. Yet he didn't miss a game while putting up 5 interceptions. Even late in the season, he several times was slow getting up, the shoulder clearly still causing him great pain. The final couple weeks of the season, after the Raiders were out of the playoff chase, there he was, time and time again, giving up his body to make the tackle. And here he is, set to play in a game that had he declined, everyone would have understood.
"I think it's real simple; just want people to know that I went out there every week and gave it all I have, I left it all on the field," Woodson said of his playing legacy. "That's the way I love to play the game, that's the way I approached it, that's all I ever wanted anybody to see when they saw me play is that I went out there and gave it everything I had."
I think it's safe to say, that legacy is intact.
Woodson has been exceeding expectations his entire career. From becoming the first and only ever primarily defensive player to win the Heisman, to being named Defensive Player of the Year at the age of 33.
He returned to Oakland in 2013 at the age of 36 and didn't miss a single game in three seasons. This after two times breaking his collarbone in Green Bay and making the move from cornerback to safety. Few people are more aware of the type of player Woodson is than Reggie McKenzie, who has spent nine of the past ten years with Woodson on his team -- first as Packers' Director of Player Personnel and then as Raiders General Manager.
"When I had the chance to get him up in Green Bay and get to see what he was really like on a daily basis I knew right then he was special," McKenzie told Sirius XM NFL radio. "And to have the opportunity to get him back home in Oakland, I jumped at the chance. It was great, not only for the Raider Nation but it was great for Charles. I think he sealed his gold jacket there. He's a special player, special talent, and the NFL will miss him on Sundays."
The NFL will get one more Sunday with Charles Woodson. In a meaningless game that is anything but meaningless to him. As it will be the last time he dons a uniform as an NFL player.