Gibson should benefit from Woodson's presence

When the Raiders plucked veteran safety Rod Woodson off the free agent market last month, they did it with two thoughts in mind. The first and most obvious is that by signing Woodson Oakland shored up a defensive secondary that was vulnerable last season, especially up the middle. The other is that the team hopes Woodson's work ethic and knowledge rubs off on the other safeties on the roster, particularly second-year man Derrick Gibson.

Gibson, the Raiders first-round draft pick in 2001, filled a back-up role as a rookie but is expected to be paired with Woodson to form Oakland's starting safety tandem for the upcoming season. The Raiders are looking to Woodson, who has been to voted to the Pro Bowl 10 times in his career, to not only make the calls in the secondary but also serve as a mentor to Gibson.

That would be a change from seasons past when several of the Raiders' young safeties privately complained that veterans in the secondary refused to lend a helping hand. Woodson, on the other hand, welcomes the role of teacher with open arms.

''I think it's my job,'' Woodson said on the day his signing with Oakland was announced. ''It would be selfish on my part if I wouldn't give them some of my knowledge that I've learned over the years. Really the better the young guys, the better we're going to play. The better everybody plays on this football team, the better this football team's going to be. So I think all the older guys need to embrace the younger guys and make them better.''

To that end, look for Woodson to be a constant voice in Gibson's ear in the coming months. Head coach Bill Callahan might also look at pairing the two together in the same room when the Raiders open training camp in Napa in late July.



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