Not that its’ really newsworthy but we are in the playoff portion of the NFL season and once again Raider Nation is looking forward to the draft. So when it comes to talking about anything Raider related this time of year we’re usually settling for pointless Hall of Fame hope or talking up former Raiders still active in the postseason.
In recent years Charles Woodson has been mentioned a lot this time of the season. Once upon a time Woodson was a Hall of Fame talent in Oakland with a JaMarcus Russell-esque work ethic. Since signing with the Green Bay Packers some seven years ago Woodson’s career has finally merged onto the Canton expressway.
But going from a forgotten talent in Oakland to a dominant factor on an annual title contender in Green Bay wasn’t coincidence. According to those that were in the tumultuous locker rooms with Woodson during his time in the East Bay a lot of what helped derail his career can be traced to the environment fostered by the Oakland brass.
Rich Gannon pretty much spelled out how toxic the situation was during Woodson’s Oakland tenure.
“Green Bay was a career-saver for Charles. He was an elite talent in Oakland, but he was never held accountable. He practiced the way he wanted to and played the way he wanted to. There wasn’t the discipline and structure that he needed.”
“There was never any question about his talent I remember competing against him at training camp, and he was ridiculous. When he went to Green Bay, it was like a guy like Randy Moss going to the Patriots. You’ve got structure and discipline around you, and you’ve got to be a certain way and perform. There was this evolution where he became a completely different person, working with young players, being very unselfish.”
Al Davis was known for siding with his players often putting the blame on the coaching staff for not getting the most of their talent all the while enabling many of the issues preventing them from reaching their true potential. Of course Davis also had plenty of success taking that same approach so it was hard to tell him otherwise. Simply put it was a new era and Davis never fully embraced the modern athlete and all his/her new-world issues.
Tim Brown also expressed how impressed he was with Woodson after seeing him again once he packed his bags for Wisconsin. In fact Brown says he could see the difference in Woodson based on appearance alone.
“He said he was lifting weights. In seven years I never saw him lift a weight in Oakland. He’d ride the bike and that was about it.”
Certainly Woodson had some growing up to do that was going to have to happen on his own regardless of his work environment. And for the record it’s not like Woodson was a draft bust. He made the Pro Bowl for times as a Raider and was a valued member of Oakland’s last Super Bowl team. However there was no ignoring how much his play plummeted near the end largely due to injury but his work ethic did him no favors.
Since going to Green Bay Woodson has blossomed into the elite defender Davis envisioned when drafting the Heisman winner.
Now these stories aren’t all too uncommon around the NFL. It just feels like it seems to be a little more common with the Raiders. There is no doubt a culture change was high atop Reggie McKenzie’s list when he took over. No matter the opinion on how things were done previously the bottom line is all that mattered. Just win, baby. Remember that? Winning masks everything and losing exposes all. Given the last decade the Oakland franchise has been naked for the world to see without a scrap of clothing in sight.