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Charles Woodson can either mail it in playing what could be his last year of football for a non-contender, or he can make the most of this reunion with the Oakland Raiders organization and go out of this league with the same type of fire he came in it with.
This offseason has shown Woodson the harsh reality of a 36-year-old’s value in the NFL, regardless of resume. It wasn’t but two seasons ago that Woodson had seven interceptions and was playing at as high of a level as ever. Once the Packers let their defensive leader test the free-agent market, though, he quickly realized that a big-money contract was out of the question.
As the offseason rolled on, this future Hall of Famer was hit with a painful lesson: Just finding a team was more challenging than he ever anticipated. On NFL Network’s Total Access, he talked about lowering his expectations from playing with a contender to simply wanting another opportunity to play football anywhere.
When you accumulate 55 interceptions and 29 forced fumbles in a career, there’s no way you don’t feel hurt by the lack of interest due to advanced age.
As a former teammate of Woodson when he was in Oakland, I have some unique insight into the type of guy he is and the competitive spirit which kept him playing at such a high level for the past 15 years. This is a guy who will give up his body for a losing team and bloody his nose in a losing season if only to inspire his teammates to dig deeper.
I can only imagine what type of competitor will emerge when he sets out to show the NFL he’s no ordinary player in his mid-30s. If Woodson can stay healthy, expect an all-out effort week in and week out.
In moments where this man is angry or frustrated, his intellect and uncanny intangibles allow him to use those emotions as a positive force—tapping into his own abilities while simultaneously inspiring his gridiron brethren.
He may not have the speed he once did and be slower to heal from the weekly grind, but Charles Woodson with a chip on his shoulder is one dangerous man on a football field—fully equipped with the leadership and playmaking abilities to take the Raiders on a impassioned journey.
These underdogs may have just found their warrior spirit.
Ryan Riddle is a former NFL player with the Oakland Raiders and New York Jets who now contributes to Bleacher Report as an NFL Featured Columnist.