Charles Woodson always had Hall of Fame talent, which is why the Raiders took him with the fourth overall pick in the 1998 NFL draft. But some of his Raiders teammates say that he wouldn’t have become the future Hall of Fame player he is if he had stayed in Oakland.
Two of the veteran leaders on Woodson’s teams in Oakland, Rich Gannon and Tim Brown, say that Green Bay has made Woodson appreciate the importance of a great work ethic, and that work ethic has made him a great player.
“Green Bay was a career-saver for Charles,” Gannon told the San Jose Mercury News. “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.”
Brown, who played with Woodson for six years in Oakland, said that when he ran into Woodson after Woodson had spent his first year in Green Bay, he was surprised to see that Woodson was noticeably physically stronger than he had ever been in his time with the Raiders.
“He said he was lifting weights,” Brown said. “In seven years I never saw him lift a weight in Oakland. He’d ride the bike and that was about it.”
Although Woodson made an immediate impact in Oakland — he was chosen to the Pro Bowl in each of his four seasons — his play began to slip as he struggled through injuries, and he never made any secret of the fact that he disliked some of the Raiders’ management and coaches.
“There’s something missing in our team right now,” Woodson said of the Raiders in 2003. “It’s just not a good atmosphere, just being in the locker room. The attitude is not that great right now.”
A decade later, Woodson has won a defensive player of the year award and a Super Bowl ring with the Packers, and those tough times in Oakland feel like they’re in the distant past. Leaving for Green Bay was good for Woodson, and good for Green Bay.