ALAMEDA — Charles Woodson thinks back to the way things used to be and laughs at the thought of having become the wise old man.
"It's really funny, having 15 years in and listening to a lot of comments from the young guys," Woodson said. "I just reflect when I came in and there's Tim Brown and Jerry Rice, guys who were older than a lot of us were. I always joked with them about how old they were. Now I find myself in the same position."
Returning to where he started after seven seasons with the Green Bay Packers, Woodson has been amused by how his potential contributions to the Raiders in 2013 have been characterized.
He is the wily veteran, a coach on the field. In contrast to his burn-the-candle-at-both-ends days during his first tenure as a Raider, Woodson gets enough sleep, is a contributor in meeting rooms and didn't miss a training camp practice until coach Dennis Allen ordered him to take a day off.
In a national conference call, ESPN analyst and former Indianapolis Colts general manager Bill Polian said Woodson was so respected, anything they get from him on the field "is a bonus when you're in that kind of rebuilding mode."
Yet Woodson, who is the most recognizable star on a team that hasn't had a winning record in a decade, is expected to be more than just a reasonable facsimile of the same player who has 55 career interceptions and 27 forced fumbles.
The social media-fueled reception that helped coax him back to Oakland on May 22 was a nice bit of nostalgia, but Charles Woodson was signed to be Charles Woodson.
"Let's make no mistake about it, Charles is here to play football and make plays for us first," Allen said. "It's a bonus to have a guy that has that veteran leadership."
So what tells Woodson he can still produce?
"By the way I move," said Woodson, who turns 37 on Oct. 7. "I can still move with the best of 'em and I still love the game. If you have those things, you keep playing."
Raiders defensive coordinator Jason Tarver is convinced Woodson is more than a sounding board with a Hall of Fame resume.
"His burst surprises me every day," Tarver said. "The guy just covers ground. That's why he's a big piece of getting this defense where we want it, and hopefully that cements his legacy."
Knowing when to retire is a tricky thing. Sometimes the athlete doesn't realize it, and occasionally the employer is too eager to force a veteran out the door.
"As you get older, they use that birth certificate against you," former Raiders safety and Hall of Famer Rod Woodson said. "When things don't go well, they blame your age."
Charles Woodson helped lead the Green Bay Packers to a Super Bowl championship following the 2010 season but was released after breaking the same collarbone two times in three seasons.
Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers, in a phone interview during training camp, was sorry to see Woodson become a salary cap casualty and believes whatever he's lost in terms of skills had been made up for in terms of know-how.