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Woodson eager to justify Raiders' faith in him; mail

Photo: Mike Roemer/AP

Charles Woodson spent eight years in Oakland, posting 17 interceptions, 36 passes defensed and 5.5 sacks there.

Charles Woodson likes being back in Oakland, to be sure. But be careful about making his decision solely a sentimental one.

Woodson, the 36-year-old safety coming off an injury-plagued season in Green Bay, signed a one-year, $1.8 million deal with Oakland last week that included a $700,000 signing bonus. And it's the bonus that was the major difference between the offers he got from Oakland and Denver, Woodson said.

"It was all about getting something to sign,'' Woodson told SI.com. "That was it.''

Woodson said the emotion of returning to Oakland was a factor as well. But I got the feeling talking to him that if Denver believed he was worth the risk at 36 of staying healthy for the year, and backed that belief with a significant signing bonus, he'd be a Bronco today. "My visit there was awesome,'' said Woodson. "Meeting with John Elway and coach [John] Fox, I was very impressed.''

Confronting his own retirement was a big deal for Woodson over the last three months. "You're forced to think about it,'' he said. "The phone just wasn't ringing. I was sure -- and I am sure -- I can play at least another year, but if no one wants you, there's not much of an option. I hear what people have said. 'He can't run anymore.' 'He can't stay healthy.' All those things. Maybe I'm delusional. But I knew I could play. When I sat across from [Oakland GM] Reggie McKenzie, I told him that. I was sure I could give a team a good year. And even if I'm not going to play for a team that's supposed to win a Super Bowl this year, I like this staff, and I like the team. I was humbled by the turnout of fans at the facility wanting me to come back.''

Woodson looked like a prize fighter returning to the ring when he stepped back onto Raiders property. "A thrill,'' he said. "Walking back in there, seeing the fans and seeing so many people I knew. I'm so excited to be back."

He sounded disillusioned by free agency. "Very surprised,'' he said. "You try to pick it apart, and I guess it's being 36 and coming off a collarbone injury. I guess what I don't understand is if you look at the tape I can still play football.''

It won't take long to find out. The free safety job will be Woodson's to lose alongside strong safety Tyvon Branch, and he'll have the chance to face Peyton Manning twice this year instead of being his teammate. Strange how things work out. But I have a feeling Woodson will feel extra motivation when those Denver-Oakland games are played in Weeks 3 and 17. If Woodson is active and playing well for those two games, that'll likely prove his point that he was healthy enough to last the season.

BURKE: Many reasons behind Woodson's Raiders move

LINTA'S A BLUNT GUY. "Can you tell me what Joe Linta was trying to accomplish by insulting the Ravens organization over the Joe Flacco contract? His client got paid and he received his percentage.''

-- Chris, Prince Frederick, Md.

I don't think there's anything deep or dark about it. Joe Linta is a no-nonsense guy, and I think he was frustrated a year ago that the Ravens didn't want to split what he felt was a very small difference in the final offers from both sides.

NO. "I, like many, hate the draft move. Looking at it from a college point of view, sort of, is there any sense the draft move is being made so that more players can compete immediately at the rookie OTAs? Thinking of kids from, say Stanford, where they use the quarter system and aren't done classes until much later than other schools."

-- Kevin, Havertown, Pa.

As I recall from being on the quarter system at Ohio University, we finished classes in early June, and so I don't see the logic there. If classes ended on May 15 and they could be available immediately, that's one thing. But if they're not available until, say, June 10, if makes no sense. Plus, it makes no sense to me if all but one of your rookies can come to a full mini-camp on a certain date that you penalize the entire group by making them unavailable for three weeks. The whole thing, believe me, is not about football. If it was, the NFL never would have moved the draft.

I DON'T SEE IT THIS WAY. "While I think HGH testing should be a part of the NFL program, I also can pretty easily see why the players are not in favor of it. I am sure some will say it is because they are protecting a large percentage of their union, but I tend to think it is far simpler than that. They see what Roger Goodell has done in other areas where he has absolute power (and suspending players under this policy is one of them) and don't want to risk Goodell doing exactly what he has done in other instances where there was limited evidence. They don't trust him and to be perfectly frank, I don't blame them. While I understand that they didn't collectively bargain the right to have an MLB type of appeals process for dirty samples, they DID collectively bargain in that HGH testing can only occur when they sign off on it. I don't foresee HGH testing until Goodell allows the players to have a baseline sample set. To be honest, I wouldn't agree to it until then either. Goodell's history has pretty much led the league down this path."

-- Kye Baxter, Iowa.

Two questions: 1. Why have baseball and basketball been able to figure out a system to test players for HGH and football hasn't? 2. Would you agree that football is better off with a testing policy? I'm tired of the excuses for not testing. I would rather have a test that is very slightly flawed than have another season of football played when, potentially, scores of dirty players gain an unfair advantage over clean ones.

YOU MAKE A GOOD POINT. "Peter, the other day, when the Chicago Bears retired the number of Mike Ditka, their owner seemed to make a special point of saying that this was the very last number that the Bears would retire, so it seemed fitting that it would be the number of a great like Ditka, or words to that effect. The timing of that statement, and the way that it was phrased, seemed to be a rather direct slap at the retiring Brian Urlacher. You would think that the Bears would very seriously consider retiring the number of Urlacher, one of their all-time greats, and the leading tackler in the history of their storied franchise, at some point, wouldn't you? The statement from their ownership seemed odd, ill-timed, and almost vindictive in nature.''

-- Matt Burk, Pittsburgh.

That's the first I thought of that, and I agree with you. Why make that point now?

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