By Abraham Gutierrez
Unlike Derek Jeter and Kobe Bryant – who chose to announce their retirement either prior to the start of the season or early on in the year – Raiders safety Charles Woodson opted to wait until the end of the regular season to announce he was ready to walk away from the game he loves.READ MORE: AC Transit Bus Crashes Into West Oakland Home
Nevertheless, that hasn’t deterred media members from making the rounds in the Raiders locker room asking Woodson’s teammates to weigh in on his retirement from the National Football League. This week, as Oakland prepares to host what could be the final game in the East Bay, a number of the Raiders core players offered their thoughts on the man they call “C-Wood.”
“It was unexpected,” said Raiders rookie (wide receiver) sensation Amari Cooper of the sudden news. “I actually didn’t think he would, he’s had such a great year. Like he said physically, I think he’s able to do it but you can never tell if a guy is mentally there and if he actually wants to come back. He’s had a long storied career and it was just sad.”
A great year is exactly what the 39-year-old from Fremont, Ohio has had. He comes into the penultimate game of the season leading the team with five interceptions to go along with his 65 tackles, which are good enough for third best in the Raiders locker room.
“I can tell that he’s a really smart player, he’s really dedicated, he works really hard,” Cooper added. “You always see him in the weight room, putting in extra work. I always see him in the training room, making sure his body is always right. He just takes the game really seriously.”
Just days after his announcement, the NFL made public the names of the players selected to this year’s Pro Bowl and, fittingly, Woodson will join two other Raiders in Hawaii. For No. 24, this will be the ninth time that he’s been selected to represent the best-of-the-best in the NFL’s version of the All-Star Game, but the first one alongside a special player like defensive end Khalil Mack.READ MORE: Cal Fire Units Respond to Wildland Fire Close to Santa Cruz County Prescribed Burn
“I’m proud and I’m glad to have been able to share these two seasons with him,” he said in retrospect. “He taught me how to be a pro. That’s something you can always cherish because he does it at the highest level. There’s so much you can say. He’s meant a lot to this game, [but me] just being around him, being able to talk to him about life, it’s bigger than football.”
Mack comes into Week 16 leading the league in sacks (15) and is fifth on the team in tackles with 62, along with a pair of forced fumbles. Earlier this season, the former Buffalo standout tied Howie Long’s franchise record for most sacks in a game (5), dominating the Denver Broncos offensive line at the point of attack.
The other Raider that will be joining Woodson and Mack in Hawaii is none other than fullback Marcel Reese. And while this will be Reece’s fourth Pro Bowl selection, it’s that much more special considering this will be the first and last he’ll get to share with arguable the greatest defensive back ever.
“It’s kind of interesting when you look at this year; you have legends leaving their game,” said Marcel Reece. “From Amy leaving soccer and Kobe leaving basketball, and then you have [Charles Woodson] announcing his retirement. I’m still trying to tell him to tell everyone he’s just joking, but he won’t give in right now.”
Finally, there was one more Raider player who also offered his thoughts on what Woodson has meant to him in his short NFL career. Nearing the end of his third NFL season, Oakland running back Latavius Murray not only leads the team in rushing yards, but also leads the AFC in that category and is fifth in the NFL behind Adrian Peterson, Doug Martin, Todd Gurley and Jonathan Stewart.
“It’s really been an honor just to play with a guy like that, especially in my first few years,” said Murray. “He leads by example. Obviously, he’s a future Hall of Famer walking around here, so, there’s nothing but respect for him and again, I’m just honored to have had a chance to play with him.”MORE NEWS: UPDATE: Witness Claims Oakland Police Searching for Wrong Car in Road Rage Homicide
Abe Gutierrez’s (Twitter: @GutierrezAbe) passion led him to ditch law school journey in order to launch his own publishing company. His expertise make him a valued addition to Examiner.com, AXS.com and the CBS-Sports family. Some of his work can be found on CBS-Miami (Dolphins), CBS-LosAngeles (Chargers), CBS-BayArea (Raiders), CBS-NewYork (NY Jets), CBS-TampaBay (Buccaneers), AXS.com, aExaminer.com and other online publications.