The Oakland Raiders lost a significant piece of leadership when future Hall of Famer Charles Woodson elected to hang up the cleats and pursue a job in television last season. Then another piece of their defense decided to retire -- defensive end Justin Tuck.
Though both are out of the building, Pro Bowler Khalil Mack says that they both still remain in contact with him and some of the guys.
“Yeah, it is a little weird around here to not see him, not seeing [Woodson's] face and [Justin] Tuck’s face and some other guys, but at the same time, they still keep in contact with us," Mack said in Monday's press conference. "Deep down we know they’re still going to be a part of this whether they’re here or not.”
But Woodson knew this day could come and pushed Mack to become more of a leader last year, urging him to be more vocal during pre-game speeches and leading the Silver & Black.
“Yeah, ‘C-Wood’ wanted me to prepare and get ready for that role, but at the same time, just taking it day-by-day and slowly, slowly seeing what happens," Mack said. "The leadership role definitely is in effect at this point.”
Mack knows he isn't alone in filling the big shoes that are now empty, looking to his 2014 NFL Draft class-mate and starting quarterback Derek Carr.
"D.C., like I’ve been saying, is a great leader, great man, great role model for other up-and-coming guys around here," Mack said. "It’s going to be real fun to see.”
Carr agrees with Mack, noticing the missing presence very quickly upon walking the Raiders headquarters for the beginning of the offseason program. Carr, who turned 25 this offseason, quickly felt older than he was.
“It was kind of weird," Carr said on Monday. "I felt older. I felt older when I walked in, if that makes any sense. I was sitting there as we were doing some of the testing with the strength and conditioning coaches, and I looked at the sheet and I was like, ‘There are barely any guys over 30 on this team.’"
The third-year quarterback became more of a leader in his second season, and knows there's still some strong leaders around him.
"I felt like we made strides in that area," Carr said. "Guys like Khalil [Mack] and myself taking strides in that area last year, but we still had ‘Wood.’ We still had Tuck. We still have Marcel [Reece]. He is a Raider. He is a Raider."
It was the realization that Tuck and Woodson are gone, along with others, that has led to Carr taking control of the Raiders locker room.
"When you come in the building and you know ‘Wood’ is not here and Tuck is not here, I feel a little older. I feel a little bit, I don’t know if it’s maturity or just a sense of, ‘Hey man, you have to pick it up now, pick it up where they left it.’ I don’t know what it is exactly, but you can definitely feel it.”