Shortly after checking in a day before the Oakland Raiders begin training camp, Charles Woodson packed his family into a white SUV for a quick afternoon drive.
It was a vastly different picture from 2004 when Woodson scoffed at the idea of showing up early for the preseason workouts.
Ten years ago, the veteran safety held out for 33 days in search of a new contract. It was the only time during his NFL career that Woodson held out, and although he didn’t land the lucrative deal he had hoped for, Woodson did have one of his most productive seasons in Oakland.
A brash 27-year-old at the time, Woodson regularly joked afterward that he might not show up on time for camp again.
Woodson laughed at that recollection while holding his 3-year-old son in his arms before placing him in a car seat Wednesday.
“It’s a change,” said Woodson, now married and a father of two. “Definitely a change – for the better.”
An eight-time Pro Bowl pick, Woodson’s role with the Raiders has also changed from what it was during his first tour with the team.
He’s changed positions, making the natural jump from cornerback to safety. Woodson, who signed a one-year contract in March, is also among a handful of veteran players the Raiders brought in to help bridge the gap of inexperience on the roster in hopes of ending an 11-year playoff drought.
“We have some guys that have been to the top in this game, guys that we know have a lot left to give the game and a lot left to give this team,” Woodson said. “I’m looking forward to getting every ounce out of those guys and myself as well. I can’t wait to go.
“We’re not looking to build for next year. We’re looking to win now.”
Woodson did fairly well in 2013 when he returned to the Raiders after seven seasons in Green Bay. He started all 16 games and had one interception, two sacks, three passes defensed, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
It’s possible that this could be Woodson’s final season. He didn’t garner much attention as a free agent in the offseason and will be as much of a teacher as he is a player this year.
Woodson’s views on training camp, however, remain the same.
“I don’t necessarily look forward to camp,” he said. “I don’t know how many (players) look forward to it, but I always look forward to being back in Napa. I’m anxious to get back, get started and see what we can make out of this Raiders team this year.”
First-round pick Khalil Mack was also among the early arrivals.
The fifth overall pick, Mack rode in one of the two busses that ferried Oakland rookies and first-year players from the team’s facilities in Alameda for the nearly hour-long ride north to the heart of wine country.
“I don’t want to say calm, but I’m just relaxed and laid back,” Mack said. “I’m looking forward to the process, taking it day by day. The media stuff is new to me, but football, I’ve been playing it for a while. It’s what I love to do.”
Other players continued to trickle in throughout the afternoon.
Punter Marquette King showed up, then pulled a large keyboard out of his car. Offensive lineman Tony Bergstrom pulled up in an all-black car, while third-string quarterback Matt McGloin arrived shortly after the two busses.
Players will undergo physicals and attend meetings on Thursday before the Raiders hold their first practice on Friday afternoon.
Updated July 23, 2014