Thank you Charles Woodson, is all I can say in this letter to you, after you announced your retirement Monday December 21st.
Usually when athletes retire, there is a sense of happiness and joy in watching an athlete in their final games. People are happy that Kobe Bryant is retiring, as his game has declined.
But for you Charles, I feel a sense of sadness, as if Raiders fans are missing out on what could be a special 2016 as the team continues to grow and improve.
As a fan I was looking forward to 2016, a young Raiders team that could contend for the playoffs and a division title with the young core of Derek Carr, Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper among others.
But in 2016 I was hoping to see you manning safety. Seeing you comeback fully healthy after a week one shoulder injury this season has had you playing in pain this entire season. The ability to see you continue your hall of fame level of play for one last season. Going out with a bang as you help the Raiders return to prominence.
No season than your last better represents the type of player you are. 2015 marks your last season in the silver and black. But also one of your best and most memorable.
After injuring your shoulder in week one, you continued to play with an injury that would leave many players out for weeks. But week after week number 24 took his position on defense. And not just playing at a pedestrian level most would expect from a 39 year old man. But at a pro bowl level.
Despite your injuries, you are still making plays. Seemingly you are every where on the field. Intercepting 5 passes prior to your final home game. Maybe more impressively is your ability to always around the football, recovering three fumbles, and strip ball carries several times.
Further sadness comes from watching you bite down in pain, your face clearly showing the toll injuries have taken on you this season. Despite your injuries you continually put your body on the line each play and every time you attempt to make a tackle. Every time we can see you calculate in your mind the best way to bring down the opposing player because of how your shoulder limits your ability to wrap up opposing ball carries.
Several times this year, you have gotten up at the end of a player in serve pain. Rarely do you stay down and have to trainers come run onto the field to see you. Instead it is you who runs off the field to see them. In your face we continue to see your pain. You know something is wrong.
As I sit watching, thinking “Oh no, not Charles. Please don’t let this be the end. We need him.”
Yet time after time, you go to the sidelines, trainers surrounding you. Off come your pads and we can see how your shoulder is being kept in place with a brace and tape. We see the look on your face, you are in pain but you do not want to come out. After a few snaps and adjustments made by trainers to your shoulder, you are back out there. Seeing you out there, playing out your childhood dream with the passion that everyone has come to appreciate and love.
We now know why it was so important for you to play out this season despite your injuries. You knew that this was your last season, prior to your announcement. You could have taken the easy way out and let your body heal. But that has never been your style. You only know one way to play, and that is to give everything you have to give. For that I thank you. For that is what has made you so special. From a triple threat Heisman trophy winner at Michigan. To a multiple time all-pro, rookie of the year and defensive player of the year, thank you.
Although it took me some time, I have come to a place of happiness with your decision. Knowing that you will be able to be with your family, your wife and two sons. Knowing that this was your decision and not forced upon you. That you were able to make the decision and not be one of the players who is constantly waiting for the phone to ring for that last opportunity. I now knowing why it was more important to you than everyone else that you keep coming back snap after snap despite your injuries. It was what you wanted to give to everyone. You have known of your decision to retire long before your announcement, but you wanted to make sure every teammate, coach and fan knew you were always there for them.
Thank you Charles, you will be missed and always remembered as one of the greatest defensive backs to ever play football. Canton is waiting, with a spot reserved for you.