Q: What's different this year? There was a lot of optimism last year, but there seems to be a difference this year.**
Woodson:"Yeah, the optimism is always there, but this year, though, it's really a clean slate. All new coaches basically, a new attitude, a new strength and conditioning staff. Everything is new around here. So yeah, we're very optimistic about what we have going on. We're out here working hard every day, just trying to get better and feel good about our progress up to this point."
Q: Some of your teammates have mentioned throughout the camp that having guys like Jack Del Rio and Ken Norton, Jr. and Rod Woodson, among other guys on the staff, that means something. The fact that they played and did so at a fairly high level carries a little more wait. Do you agree?
Woodson:"Yeah, I think for any player, man, when you have a guy that played the game, he knows the scrutiny put on you as a player. He knows the bumps and bruises that you take on a day-in and day-out basis. He knows about being in training camp. He knows about what it takes to win. It's validation for that guy when he played the game. When you're a player, there's almost automatically a respect that you have for a person that's been in it, been in that fight, knows what it's all about. So I think the guys are responding to that. These guys, really they do have a wealth of knowledge. I think our teaching level this year has been at an all-time high, as far as guys understanding where they're supposed to be each and every play. I think that'll go well for us."* *
Q: You went through the entire offseason and for the first time you never missed a practice, and even at training camp you haven't had a veterans day off. Do you have to psyche yourself into practicing every day or are you naturally fired up to go out and practice? At this stage in your career, how do you approach that?
Woodson:"Honestly, man, practice – training camps now to me are fairly easy. I tell these guys all the time that when I first came in, practices were a lot different. You put the pads on more. Guys had to bang a lot more and you were putting on the pads twice a day. Training camps are a lot different these days. For me, I find it hard to come out here and complain about practicing when it's not how it used to be. Coaches have done a great job as far as my reps and how many I take throughout the day, and so for me, it's not hard to come out and practice at all."* *
Q: Were you surprised you guys didn't sign a veteran cornerback? What has been your impression of the three young guys so far? **
Woodson:"I can't say I'm surprised. I'm not really sure what the coaches wanted to do in that regard. I don't know, but I know that we're fairly confident in the guys that we have, though they are young guys. These guys are working, man. You guys are out here every day, you're watching them, watching them compete. The awesome thing about them is they are soaking it all in and you can actually see it. When you go in and watch film every day that these guys are learning and they're getting better and they're competing, because they know once this season starts, there isn't any going back. They are what we have and we need them all to step up."* *
Q: In all the years that you've played, have you ever played on a defense that can put guys the size of Dan Williams and Justin Ellis in the middle at the same time?
Woodson:"I love it. It kind of reminds me of Grady Jackson when Grady was here. You put him in the middle. We had a guy like Darrell Russell, who was an unbelievable player. You could put him in the middle. Those guys, when they wanted to go, man, it was special. So to be able to have Ellis and those guys in the front, we feel like you shouldn't be able to run the ball on us. Really, if you put those guys up there, we should be a pretty stout defense. That's what we're counting on."* *
Q: What has it been like working with Nate Allen in the back? You guys probably have to have a good chemistry.
Woodson:"Yeah, pretty good. We're pretty interchangeable. We both work both positions, strong safety and free. We mix it up for the most part. The great thing about us is that both of us are veterans in the league and we understand the communication aspect of it, so we're constantly talking in the back end. We have to get each other lined up sometimes. We might see different things and he may yell over to me and I have to get myself lined up, or I might say something to him if he doesn't see the right formation or whatever, and we get ourselves lined up. It's great working with a guy like him."* *
Q: When you came to the Raiders and Tim Brown was here as an established veteran. What were your impressions of him then and also as a teammate and a player?
Woodson:"He was a pro. That's what it was, man. He was a seasoned vet, like you said, by the time I came in. He had played the game for a while. He knew what it was about. He had already established himself as a player. He had gone through the time period of being a young guy coming into the league to being a veteran, so he knew what it was all about to be a pro. That was him every day. You could look at Tim Brown when you walk in the locker room and you were going to get consistency with him as a person and as a player. It's always great for a young guy to have those examples, even though you may not follow them right away. But it's great to have those guys in the locker room that you can look up to and see the right way to go about your business."* *
Q: What is it like being the guy that the young guys are following? **
Woodson:"Pressure. It's pressure, man. Trying to do the right things, man. Trying to say the right things. I do my best. But it's the same. When I came in, I was, you could say, hard-headed. Young guys now are the same way. For those guys, you just hope that they can understand earlier better than later, because you don't know how long you're going to be able to play this game before you ever get it. Like I said, try to do the right things and try to say the right things to these guys, so they can have a good example to follow."* *
Q: The 49ers had to cut Aldon Smith today because he got in trouble again last night. Do those kinds of things serve notice to young players? Or do young players think it won't happen to them?
Woodson: "I don't think guys don't think it's going to happen to them. But, you know, in this life you make mistakes, you know, and some people make more than others. And right now, the way the NFL is, they're cracking down on a lot of different things. Some things in years past you maybe could get away with and continue to play. It's just not the case anymore. So, when you're out and doing whatever you're doing, you've got to try and be on your best behavior because they're not cutting any slack."
Q: You matched up with Michael Crabtree a bunch over the years. How does he look compared to maybe a few years ago when he was putting up those big numbers in San Francisco?
Woodson: "I thought he's been playing well. He's one of those crafty guys. He isn't going to be the fastest guy out there on the field, but he knows how to get open. And again, you guys have been out here every day and you've seen him making all kinds of catches. He has great hands; that's never been a question. But he just knows how to get open. He reads the defenses, knows where he needs to be and he finds himself open a lot of times."
Q: Do you feel like on both offense and defense that the talent level is significantly higher than the last two years?
Woodson:"Yeah, I think it's been great, man. I think in some key positions where we've added people, you add talented guys that can be potential game-breakers for you. That's what you need in this game. You need some guys that can go out there and perhaps take the game over at any given moment. I think we have a few guys like that."* *
Q: What was it about Derek Carr last year that enabled him to come in as a rookie and win over the team, win over the locker room and serve as a leader?
Woodson:"He just came out and worked every day. I don't think when he came out… There was no question he had talent. He came out every day. He picked up the offense. He knew what he was doing and then he just started making throws. He let that talent take over and it was pretty – just watching it last year, I think it was pretty easy to make the decision when the time came that this guy is the guy that we're going to use going forward. Just throw him in there and let him go, let him fly."
Q: We always talk about rookie quarterbacks and the improvements they show in Year 2. As a defensive guy, do you see that?
Woodson:"I expect to see that out of Derek. I think it's for any player. I think any player at any position, if you're able to come in and play your first year and you can play the entire season, I think that second year is your biggest jump as a professional athlete. I think it's going to be the same for Derek. At least, that's what we're all hoping around here. I feel he will, man. He's a pro. He's a leader. I think the guys on the team recognize him as a leader. You go out here to practice, he'll come over to the sidelines sometimes and ask me questions about what I see, so he's hungry. He's thirsty for that knowledge and he can make all the throws. You put all those things together and combine that with the fact that he played in every game last year, I mean, we're looking for him to be dominant this year."
Q: Expectations are pretty huge for Amari Cooper since he was drafted. What have you seen from him?
Woodson:"He's going to be pretty special. He'll be pretty special, man. He can do it all. The sky will be the limit for that young man."
Q: What about DJ Hayden? He's been healthy for quite some time. What have you seen out of him in terms of his progress and mentality?
Woodson:"The same as the rest of the guys; every day I think you can see improvement in the guys. They have a Hall of Famer [assistant defensive backs coach Rod Woodson] coaching them and you can tell those guys are listening. With DJ, a couple plays a couple days ago he was right there, just a little bit off. I told him just watching him over the course of this training camp, it's getting closer and closer, and eventually those plays will become break-ups or they'll become interceptions. You see him make on an interception and make it a big play for our defense, so if he just keeps learning and keeps grinding... The biggest thing with him will be experience. Once you get into the games – practice is one thing – once you get into those games and get that game experience, you would think he'll continue to grow."
Q: Going back to Tim Brown, you talked about what made him special off the field, but what made him special on the field?
Woodson:"He was one of those crafty guys, too. He just knew how to work your leverage, knew how to work you as a defender and get separation. They liked to move him around a lot in the slot, and when he came off the ball he didn't always come off fast, but he'd kind of put you to sleep and then take off and he'd find himself getting where he needed to be and catching the ball and either turning it up or making it a touchdown or whatever it was. He was crafty in that regard. He knew how to work you, knew how to work the defense and make a lot of catches. He made a lot of catches over his career. Touchdown Timmy was special, man, and big congratulations to him on making it to the Hall of Fame."
Q: You've been around a lot of different strength and conditioning staffs and coaches. Is there anything about the new group that sets them apart in your opinion?
Woodson:"I think they're a lot like our staff; it's all about the detail. You see me wearing this vest, so I guess they're checking to see if my heart is beating too fast or too slow or whatever. There are a lot of things that they're checking on each and every day to try to bring it all together. It's not just about going in the weight room, lifting weights and seeing how much you can lift and that sort of thing. Maybe one day you're not feeling up to lifting heavy weight and they'll back off you and that'll be it; they'll go from there and see what they need to do. They pay attention to detail and I think their program is pretty outstanding."