Veteran Rod Woodson fits like a glove with Raiders
Now, Woodson is the glue of the Oakland deep patrol that is primed for an all-pirate Super Bowl on Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. No land lubbers need apply in this ultimate contest of who will walk the plank. For a moment, forget the presence of Jon "Chucky" Gruden, litigious Raiders owner Al Davis, the tattooed rogue's gallery of the Black Hole, grumpy former Ravens lineman Sam Adams, or that this venerable Oakland roster will soon be dismantled because it's anywhere from $34 to $50 million over the salary cap for next season. Let's focus on Woodson. Yes, he's still relevant, vibrant even at age 37. Astounding stuff, really, this career he's forged. Woodson is the member of the NFL's 75th anniversary team and 1990s' All-Decade team who's back in the Pro Bowl again for the 11th time. He holds the marks for most interceptions returned for touchdowns, and interception return yardage. Woodson has defied the hour glass, or in his case a whole library full of calendars. Woodson has managed to intercept eight passes this season, including a 98-yard return for a score, along with 82 tackles and three fumble recoveries. Instead of playing bingo at a retirement facility, Woodson is competing superbly along with other savvy graybeards Jerry Rice, Bill Romanowski, Rich Gannon and Tim Brown. I have to admit I thought that Woodson had lost a step. That was cemented two years ago when the Pittsburgh Steelers' Bobby Shaw dashed past him as if he were standing still on a Kordell Stewart bomb. Not even Ben Johnson on his finest steroids could have recovered as Woodson was duped badly because of his aggressiveness. I figured that night in the Baltimore press box that the end was drawing near. Well, I was wrong. Woodson still has an innate sense for the game and has emerged as the ideal tutor to Charles Woodson and Philip Buchanon. Woodson is gaining on Dick "Night Train" Lane for third on the all-time career interception list. Soon enough, if he ever unlaces his cleats, he'll join Lane in the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. Before the AFC title victory over the Tennessee Titans, Woodson told reporters who believed his epitaph was written after he wrecked his knee, after he left the Steelers, after he left the San Francisco 49ers and, yes, after he departed Baltimore: "Al Davis defied everything that is the norm in the league. He's one of a very few who looks at how good you are, not your birth certificate. Al's history was always that he'd give second chances to the bad guys nobody wanted, to the black sheep of the league. He wants to know if you can fit in, if you can play, and he's not looking much at trends." Here's a trend for you to know: Rod Woodson is still a terrific football player.
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