OAKLAND – Charles Woodson stepped to the podium after Thursday’s dramatic 23-20 overtime victory over the San Diego Chargers flanked by his sons Chase and Charles Jr.
Chase Woodson is the youngest and clearly the most outgoing, routinely grabbing the microphone with something witty in store.
His first foray was a “Raaaiders…Raaaiders,” but his last was his best.
“The best player in the NFL is my dad,” Chase said.
Papa Woodson shrugged and flashed a 1,000-watt smile.
“You know I can’t argue with that.”
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Woodson is going out on top of his game. The 39-year old announced his retirement on Monday – a day before being named to his ninth Pro Bowl -- setting up one last goodbye on Thursday night at O.co Coliseum. Energy buzzed throughout the stadium, with signs aplenty honoring Woodson’s 11 years in silver and black.
While it wasn’t pretty, the Raiders pull out a gutty win for their older brother.
“I guess it had to end like that right? It was a little much for me,” Woodson said. “I would have rather it had been a lopsided victory and we blew them out, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. It’s good for it to be this night, a night where it’s my last game in the Coliseum to have the dramatics but come out with the win.”
While Thursday might’ve been the Raiders last game in Oakland – owner Mark Davis has eyes on relocating to the Los Angeles market -- fan and player focus was on sending Woodson out on a high note.
The Raiders made the moment special. Woodson was the final part of pre-game introduction, where he walked to midfield and soaked up the adoration of a sold out crowd. He was the team’s only captain for the opening coin toss. And, while the play didn’t work out, coaches designed a run/pass option used to no avail during overtime.
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Woodson got a chance to speak to the crowd after the victory, and most everyone was still in their seats.
“Our fans showed out; they were tremendous tonight,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “Charles is one of the greatest players to ever put on the uniform. He’s a great Raider and to be able to send him out the right way, to be able to cap off a special evening like this. Our last home game this year, our last chance, 2015, to make a mark here at home. I’m just really proud of the effort.”
This was Woodson’s night, but he told teammates before the game to keep focus on the team.
“It feels really good to have all these people out here cheering my name,” Woodson said. “But I want you all to understand something. This is bigger than me. It always has been bigger than me. If you understand that, you know it’s bigger than you, too. It’s not about one individual. It never is. So I share this night with my teammates, with my brothers. This is bigger than me, it’s bigger than you, but it’s not bigger than us. We’re going out here tonight, and we’re going to ride together.”
The Raiders did that, turning in a defensive performance that ultimately beat the Chargers on this night. It was an emotional victory, one led by Woodson’s passion for the all things Raiders and his connection with fans and teammates. It wouldn’t have felt special if Woodson wasn’t revered in such a way.
“The whole night was surreal, almost like a movie,” Khalil Mack said. “You see the lights and camera around him constantly, and you know how he’s loved around here and this is a big deal that it’s his last game. I’m still dealing with my own big-brother issues cause I don’t want him to leave.
“It was cool to be around someone with that body of work, who has had such a storied career. It was an amazing night. I’m glad we got him a win.”
Woodson had one last moment with the crowd, and delivered a simple message.
"This team is going to get so much better really soon,” Woodson said. “It may be my last game at the Coliseum, but just know I'll never leave you. Go Raiders."