The maturation process of Charles Woodson has been something to behold over the years. From a cocky young player for the Raiders to an eventual Super Bowl champion for the Packers, to his triumphant return to Oakland as a wise and weathered veteran, to his emotional farewell game, raising his arms to form an O for fans in Oakland as he played his final game in a Raiders uniform.
Few people in the public eye have a stronger connection to Oakland Raiders fans than Woodson who still takes great pride in his winery in Napa California, where the Raiders hold training camp on the north end of the Bay Area.
Woodson appeared on the Rich Eisen show Tuesday where he was asked about his feelings on the Raiders move and as we had come to expect from him during his second stint in Oakland, he had many words of wisdom. First of all, that he sympathizes with their pain.
"Knowing that fan base as well as I do, this stings like no other," sad Woodson. "I understand that completely. These are diehard Raiders fans, they bleed Silver & Black, so for that team to pick up and move and now going to Vegas, man, the fans are devastated."
As there often is with these things, it's followed by a big BUT. And it's the same BUT that has always led Mark Davis to be free in the belief that he can do whatever he wants with the team; they'll follow.
"But the one thing I do know about Oakland fans is it doesn't really matter where they are, in my opinion, I still feel like they're gonna be diehard Raider fans because it's in their blood, it's in their DNA.," Woodson continued. "There's gonna be a few instances where there's gonna a people that say ‘ you know what, I can't do it, I'm done' but I think for most of the Raiders fans, they're gonna follow that team wherever they go."
Woodson's belief that the fans will remain centers not just around their loyalty, but around the fact that they are now a winning team with exciting young talent on the field.
"You have a very good team, a nucleus in the Oakland Raiders," said Woodson. "I think it would be easier for people to dismiss this team if they were the 4-12 Raiders, the 3-13 Raiders. But I think this is a fanbase that I will rally behind these players because it's not the players. The players didn't do it. You're not necessarily trying to take it out on the players. You don't blame those guys, they gotta go where the team goes, so I don't think there's gonna be an issue as far as that's concerned."
Unfortunately for some, you can't separate the players from the franchise. After all, do the fans of the many players who left as free agents this offseason still root for them now that they're gone? Not typically. Whether they support that player is wholly dependent upon their playing for the Raiders, so it's more the jersey than it is the person in it.
Speaking of the person in the jersey, they are often young, impressionable guys who are seeing more money than they had ever seen in their life. Some have expressed concern over the temptations of Las Vegas on those players being too much to resist. Woodson thinks that concept is overblown and would apply to many current NFL cities.
"You can't get around the fact that [Vegas] is gonna have an impact on the players, young and old," he said. "It's gonna have an impact on people in the organization. That's just how life is, but you're gonna tell me no team can play in a place where there's temptation or there's gambling or there's night life, then the Miami Dolphins gotta move, [New Orleans Saints], the New York Giants and Jets they need to move, Chicago Bears need to move, all of these teams that play in cities where it's all night long, it's time for them to pick up and move somewhere where there's no threat.
"Yeah, Vegas has all the bells and whistles, and I get that, and as a young player coming in, I came to Oakland, I was a young player, a lot of money, I got into trouble as a young player in Oakland. Nobody was talking about it was because of the city. There's some things you're not gonna be able to get around, there's gonna be young guys coming in immature with a lot of money that are gonna make mistakes. But that's mistakes anybody would make. If you're a young business man and all of a sudden you're 21 years old, you're very bright, you get a $6 million bonus, what do you think you're gonna do when you go to Vegas? You're gonna blow a little money. Everybody puts these things on NFL players or NBA players or whatever as if it's different than any other human being in the world and that's not the case."
But just in case, CWood said anytime the Raiders would like him to come and speak to the Raiders players about his experiences and offer his advice, he's open to it.
"For the Raiders I'm always going to be ready and willing to go there and talk to those players about whatever. If Mark calls me, Jack calls me, Reggie calls me, I'm there because they gave me a chance twice in that organization."