ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) — Even at age 37, Charles Woodson is feeling a bit younger in his second season back with the Oakland Raiders.
That’s what bringing in so many other veterans who have Super Bowl experience like Woodson can do.
Woodson is part of a rebuilt defense in Oakland that includes newcomers like Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley, Antonio Smith, Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown, who all know what it takes to succeed in the NFL.
“I feel like I’m getting younger out there anyway. I feel good,” Woodson said. “Bringing in those guys brings in credibility. I look forward to playing with those guys this season.”
The injection of veteran leadership on a defense that allowed the second-most points per game (28.3) in franchise history in 2013 was part of a plan to end a run of 11 straight seasons without a playoff berth or winning record that started in Woodson’s first stint in Oakland.
Woodson said he has already seen the impact of the newcomers in improved communication and understanding of the defense during offseason workouts.
Adding veteran quarterback Matt Schaub to an improved defense gives the Raiders the tools they feel like they need to compete in the tough AFC West despite the low expectations outsiders have for the franchise.
“We’re trying to bust through the ceiling. I look at the team and I feel like I have what I need from a team standpoint to get all the way there,” Woodson said. “Now, does that happen? Nobody knows until that time comes, but we’ve got players in there. If we all focus in, all our goals at the end of the season will be there.”
The Raiders brought in most of those newcomers on defense before making the decision to bring back Woodson on another one-year deal. Woodson didn’t talk to other teams in the hope of returning to Oakland but acknowledged he wasn’t sure it would actually happen.
“I wanted to get something done right away,” he said. “Every team has priorities and I respect what they did in the offseason and the moves they made prior to me signing again. I was getting a little bit nervous sitting at home trying to figure out what was going to happen. The reality was if it didn’t happen here that could have been it.”
Woodson had mixed results in his first season back in Oakland after spending the previous seven seasons in Green Bay. He started all 16 games at free safety and almost never came off the field, but the Raiders stumbled to their second straight 4-12 record.
Woodson had 75 solo tackles, one interception, two sacks, three passes defensed, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. He returned one fumble for his 13th career defensive touchdown, tying the NFL record held by Darren Sharper and Rod Woodson.
But he spent most of the season lined up as a deep safety instead of roaming the field in different roles like he did in Green Bay. Part of that was because strong safety Tyvon Branch broke his ankle in the second week of the season and did not return.
“Any time you lose a player of Tyvon’s ability, it does hinder you in terms of what you can do,” coach Dennis Allen said. “We’re excited about having Wood back. I think he brings a lot back to the table. We’ve got a better feel for him, what he can really do well, and how we can put him in positions to make plays.”
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