NAPA, Calif. (AP) — Charles Woodson took a break from overseeing his winery in the Napa Valley to visit the Oakland Raiders training camp Thursday. Peyton Manning was there, too, while in the midst of a speaking tour.
The two future Hall-of-Famers were all over the place, chatting with players and coaches and going over techniques as the Raiders went through their 2 1/2-hour workout.
For Woodson, it was a step back in time. The nine-time Pro Bowl defensive back spent 11 seasons over two stints with the Raiders and was a rookie in 1998, Jon Gruden’s first year as an NFL coach.
Now retired and an analyst for ESPN, the 41-year-old Woodson was a little startled when he walked onto the practice field and heard music blaring from a far corner.
“I don’t remember that ever happening,” Woodson said, grinning. “I was just telling somebody, everybody’s talking about Gruden’s been out of the game, he’s out of touch. Actually he’s not. He’s got a DJ. I think he’s fitting right in.”
Although his beard is filled with more gray than ever, Woodson — who last played in 2015 when he earned Pro Bowl recognition as a safety — still looks physically capable of playing in the NFL.
Not long after Gruden was hired in the offseason to return to the Raiders, he joked that he might try to convince Woodson to come out of retirement.
Woodson laughed at the thought but said Gruden isn’t much different than he was when he first coached the Raiders 20 years ago.
“I remember coming in seeing a young fiery Jon Gruden and he seems to have that same thing going on,” Woodson said. “It’s going to be great for the players to have a guy with that kind of energy back on the sidelines. I think it’s going to be a fun year. It’s going to be a process, of course. You have to get guys to buy into what you’re selling. If they do that they’ll be fine.”
One player not in camp is defensive end Khalil Mack, who is holding out in a contract dispute.
Woodson was in a similar position in 2004 and 2005 when he held out in training camp looking for a new deal. Each year, the Raiders hit him with the franchise tag.
Woodson said he has spoken with Mack and encouraged the 2016 Defensive Player of the Year to stay in shape while negotiations continue.
“He’s a young guy that’s trying to get paid and I don’t fault any man for that,” Woodson said. “Now, every team’s going to have their limits of what they feel they can do and what they won’t do. You have to navigate that. He’s a smart enough guy, he’ll figure it out.
“I just told him, `Whenever you come back. I don’t know what happens with your deal, if you get a new deal or if you’re playing on the same deal, when you come back come back ready.’ You don’t want anybody saying anything crazy about your conditioning and all of this sort of thing.”
Manning attended camp while in the Bay Area for a speaking engagement in San Francisco. He phoned Gruden to ask if he could come out to practice then spent the afternoon chatting with Derek Carr and quarterbacks coach Brian Callahan.
“Being a football junkie, Jon and I kind of speak the same language,” Manning said. “I know he’s happy. Good for football that he’s back in the game.”
Gruden put both men to work.
Woodson spoke to the players during a team meeting while Manning sat in during the quarterbacks meeting, watched film and offered his own tips.
Manning specifically spoke at length with Carr, Oakland’s veteran quarterback who is learning his third system in four years.
“I really like Derek,” Manning said. “He is very engaged and obviously trying to learn a new system, which is a challenge. But one thing about Jon Gruden is he loves football so everybody playing for him better love it too. When your QB loves it, and you can tell Carr does, it shows.”
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