Raiders safety Charles Woodson will conclude his 18-year career on Sunday. The nine-time Pro Bowler is sharing his thoughts during his final week. The following is the second installment, submitted Tuesday night.
I approached my career with the mindset of never looking back. I always looked forward. I did things the way I felt I needed to do them at the time because that was the only way I could survive -- by doing it my way. But I wouldn't recommend that anyone else do it like I did, because just like with anybody in life, there's no guarantee it will turn out right if you follow someone else's road. For me, I went through some things early in my career, but I reached a point where I was able to transition and allow my career to take off and go even higher. But some people would never get to that point where they'd have an opportunity to transition so their careers could blossom. By doing it the way that I did it, it might be the end of the road for them. So it's one of those "Do as I say, not as I do," situations, you know?
I don't really have regrets in my career, but there are several things I'd probably do differently if I had the chance.
For instance, I wish I would've had a conversation with Raiders owner Al Davis when I left as a free agent after the 2005 season. The organization and myself were willing to move on from each other, so I went my way and they went their way. I guess I didn't see any reason to talk to Al, and he didn't see a reason to talk to me. I wish now we had talked. Not that it would have changed anything, but it would have been good to sit down, face-to-face, and just talk to him and see what could have happened and how things went wrong at that time. You never know.
Another thing is the NFC Championship Game in the 2007 season. I was with the Packers and we were playing the New York Giants. It was early in the game and running back Brandon Jacobs got the ball. I'm on the edge and it's going to be my tackle to make. On any tackle, I'm always trying to go for the ball, and the biggest mistake I made that day was that I didn't go low and take his legs out. I went high and tried to slap at the ball, and he lowered his shoulder and knocked ... my ... ass ... out!
Seriously, I was out for a second after we made contact. Then I hit the ground and woke up. I remember being on the ground and one of my teammates was like, "Wood! Wood! You all right?!" I was shook -- really I was. I played the rest of the game, but I was out of it. That's a big regret for me, not going and hitting that guy low. That was a ROUGH day from then on out.
Finally, there was the first round of the 2009 playoffs. I was with the Packers and we had a good squad. Offensively we were rolling; our offense was awesome. Before the game started, I went through seven-on-seven warm-ups and was standing at midfield waiting for team drills when the referee comes up to me and says, "OK, Charles. I don't need any holding out of you today. You get 5 yards, and after that you let him go." I'm thinking to myself that I don't need to hear this right now, but I say, "Alright. Cool."
That particular day I was going to be matched up against Larry Fitzgerald, so I told the official, "OK, if you don't want me to hold him, don't allow him to push me off at the top of his route." The ref was like, "That's cool. Just let us make the call." Well, no more than a few seconds go by and another ref comes up to me with the same speech from before the game.
I'm thinking to myself, Wait a minute now. I can understand one ref telling me something, but when two refs tell me the same thing, it's like I'm under the microscope. I tell the ref, "Wait a minute. He just told me the same thing. You guys are telling me this, but don't allow Larry to be pushing off at the top of his route when we get in the game. If he does that, I've got to grab him." The ref said, "OK. Just let us make the call."
Now, I'm feeling off. If there's two refs telling me, there's three, and they're all looking at me. Early in the game the Cardinals are driving and I'm lined up against Larry. We get to the top of the route and he gives me a little nudge. I fall down and quarterback Kurt Warner hits Larry, who runs it in for a touchdown. I get up and I'm looking around for the flag but there's nothing. What I was thinking in my mind while he's running his route is, when he gets to the top of his route I can't grab him because the referees are watching me. I deliberately choose not to grab him when, usually, I would grab any receiver and make the referee make a decision on whether or not to throw the flag. But I consciously did not grab him at the top of the route and, boom, he scores a touchdown.
Later in the game he scored another touchdown on a route where he ran right through me. Again, there was no flag. I just remember after that game just kicking myself, because I allowed somebody to dictate a part of what I did on the field on game day. I never got over that. I was apologizing to my teammates after the game, but what was done was done. That was 14 points in a 51-45 loss in overtime. I felt like, if they don't get those 14 points, we win the game.
Now who knows how far we could have gone after that? The way our offense was rolling, we were going to be hard to beat that year. I took that loss personally. It was hard to get over.
ESPN senior writer Jim Trotter assisted Woodson in writing this entry.