KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Charles Woodson could finally exhale.
After 18 seasons, 254 regular-season games, 17 postseason appearances, 65 interceptions and well more than 1,000 tackles, his NFL career is over.
“It has set in,” Woodson said after making seven tackles in the Oakland Raiders’ 23-17 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium, site of his NFL debut in 1998. “Mentally, I know it’s over. Finally, I can just breathe. I’m good.”
As Woodson walked off the field for the final time, he was overcome with emotion.
“I would have loved to have walked off with the win,” Woodson said. “That was the last time you walk off as a player. There are a few players from the other team who come up [to] you and say a few things to you. You congratulate them and wish them well going forward in the playoffs. You listen to the crowd. The crowd is yelling your name. You see a lot [of] people out there with your jersey on. You just take in those last few moments, walking off of the field.”
Woodson finished his career with his ninth Pro Bowl selection and fifth as a Raider. He was a Super Bowl champion with Green Bay and is a surefire Hall of Famer. Woodson’s 65 career interceptions are tied for fifth all-time, and the four players ahead of him on the list -- Paul Krause (81), Emlen Tunnell (79), Rod Woodson (71) and Dick “Night Train” Lane (68) -- are in the Hall of Fame.
His legacy, Woodson said, is simple.
“I want people to say that I left it all out on the field, nothing more and nothing less,” Woodson said. “I gave the game everything I had. Every Sunday that I went out and played the game, I gave it 100 percent effort. That is all you can ask for [from] anybody.
“I feel like I played at the top of my game for 18 years. I am very, very proud of that. We didn’t get the win today. I would have loved to get on this plane ride home and celebrate with my teammates after a win. Nevertheless, the fight the guys had today, and taking it down to the end, was fun. It is always fun being on the football field, but I wish we could have won.”
When next September rolls around, Woodson realizes what he’ll miss most.
“Just the game itself,” he said. “Just being out on the field. To me, of course I am biased because I play, this is the greatest sport in the world. There is nothing like going out there, between the white lines, every Sunday afternoon. I have had such a great time doing it, playing with all the teammates I’ve had over the years. It is a lot of fun going out there and preparing to play this game.”
Woodson’s teammates were thrilled to share the day with him.
“It was an honor to see it, it was an honor to be a part of it,” Raiders quarterback Derek Carr said. “I walked up to him after the game and just shook his hand, and he gave me a hug. He is someone that I will keep in contact with, he is someone that has helped me a lot. He means a lot to me. I wish I could express how much he means to me but he means a lot as a teammate, as a leader and you know he’s the best.”