Charles Woodson knows tomorrow night will be his chance to say goodbye to Raiders fans who have cheered him on for almost two decades.
He hopes it won’t be goodbye to football in Oakland as well.
The Christmas Eve game against the San Diego Chargers (4-10) will be the home finale for the Raiders (6-8), who could be moving to the Los Angeles area after the season if the league grants approval.
“It’s going to be sad just for myself. It will be sad for the fans,” Woodson said. “They love this team. They love the Raiders. They identify with the Oakland Raiders. It’s happened to them before. It would be tough to actually have that happen a second time around.”
The Raiders and Chargers are seeking to partner on building a stadium in Carson, while the St. Louis Rams are looking to build their stadium in Inglewood and are willing to take on a partner if needed.
The three teams are expected to apply to relocate next week with a possible vote to be held on which teams will be allowed to move during meetings in Houston on Jan. 12-13.
Raiders coach Jack Del Rio, who grew up as a Raiders fan in the East Bay, has had little to say on the relocation topic all season. He isn’t starting this week.
“I really haven’t thought anything about that subject other than just enjoying the time leading this team,” Del Rio said. “Yeah, it could have added significance. We played our high school championship game there [as a teenager in Hayward]. I just don’t know what the plans are. That’s not my area.
“I’ll let M.D. [owner Mark Davis] handle that stuff. I just continue to coach the football team and work on having our guys as prepared as possible.”
Said quarterback Derek Carr: ”I guess it’ll just be in the moment, because in reality, it could be [the last game]. We’re all human, we know that, but at the same time it’s something that is out of our control. I don’t know what it will be like, but I’m sure our fans will be fired up.”
While the Raiders’ future home remains uncertain, Woodson’s future is settled. He announced Monday that he is retiring after an 18-season career that was one of the best of any defensive back in NFL history.
“The fact that it could be the last game in Oakland and his last home game I’m sure will even add to the energy there,” Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said.
“He’s always a guy that I have had respect for and I played in a lot of games against. As I think he said, he’s still doing it. It’s amazing that he can still really run and in watching the tape, every time the ball is turned over, he is the one ends up with the fumble or an interception it seems like.”
Woodson is still performing at a high level at age 39, ranking second in the NFL with eight takeaways and being picked for another Pro Bowl. He has a chance to set some records the next two weeks. He can become the oldest player ever to return a punt and also can break a tie with Rod Woodson and Darren Sharper by scoring his 14th career defensive touchdown. There’s also talk about getting Woodson involved in the offense as he was when he won the Heisman Trophy at Michigan in 1997. Woodson has two career catches, but none since 2000.
“That’s been in discussions ever since we started this season,” offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said. “We may have something up our sleeve. It might be the right time to do it.”
On a night that feels like The End in so many ways, why not?