Age is just a number, at least to veteran FS Charles Woodson. The 38-year-old continues to play the game of football at the highest level on the sport's biggest stage.
"I hear all the time from everybody about how old I am, but I just want you to talk about how well I'm playing, if I'm playing well, and I think I've played that way," said Woodson. "You gain the respect of the guys around you, whether it be older guys or guys that are just coming into the league. I continue to play with that high standard, with high energy, as much as I can, and show those guys how it's done."
Woodson's love of the game and his drive to stay in it have allowed him to play 17 seasons in the NFL and, after signing a contract extension with the Raiders, to play his 18th in 2015. "You have to keep at, and really there's no secret. You either work hard at it or you don't," said Woodson. "If you love it, those are usually the guys that last long, because they do take care of themselves, make sure that they're in shape. If you're fortunate enough not to have an injury that will take it away from you, as long as you do those things, you'll be alright."
Some wondered at the end of the 2014 season if it was the final year for the long-tenured defensive back, but Woodson wasn't ready to hang up the cleats.
"I get the opportunity to keep doing what I love and to keep having fun," he said. "I have great respect for the game, and I'm able to go out there and continue to play at a high level the way I've done my whole life, so I feel like why not keep playing?"
Woodson's ultimate goal is to win a Super Bowl wearing the Silver and Black. "Of course the goal is to always get into the playoffs and get the opportunity to play for a championship, and so we're still searching for that, and I want to be a part of the team," he explained. "Hopefully it can happen this year where we get back into the playoffs and have a shot at it, so I'm still searching for that."
Woodson believes the Raiders have put several of the pieces in place, specifically through the 2014 draft class, to reach the tournament. "That's the thing I'm most excited about, is the young players," said Woodson. "The opportunity this year to play alongside a young guy like Khalil Mack, who I think is going to be a star in the league; I love playing with Sio [Moore]. Towards the end of the season, I talked about last year's draft class with Khalil [Mack] and Derek [Carr], TJ [Carrie], Gabe [Jackson] and [Justin] Ellis. Those guys were wins…Keith McGill. Those guys were wins for the organization. I think they have to do it again this year and I think they will. I think they'll go out there and find players that will help this team, like I said, get over the hump. I'm excited about that. Excited to come back and play with those guys. Hopefully we can get a couple of free agents over here and help us reach our goal. I'm excited."
The 17-year-veteran has taken the field hundreds of times, but he still has to pinch himself every time he suits up to play the game he loves. "There's only a few of us that are chosen to play this game, and I've been able to do it for 17 seasons, going on the 18th," said Woodson. "I'm well above the average of the NFL player, so every time I put that uniform on and I walk out there onto the field, whether it's home or away, standing there on the sideline listening to the National Anthem, I'm pinching myself because I'm truly blessed to be a part of what I feel, and a lot of people feel, is the greatest game in the world."
And Woodson relishes his continued opportunity to be a Raider. "There's nothing like putting on the Silver and Black," he said. "There's nothing like running out there in that Coliseum and having those fans behind you."
Woodson may be one of the oldest players to take the field in 2015, but that number won't cross his mind come Week 1. "[I'm] a guy that is going out there every week, laying it out on the line."