NFL
Woodson Won't Start Raiders' Season-Opener
By Janie McCauley
Aug 30, 2004

ALAMEDA, CA (AP) - Charles Woodson's role with the Oakland Raiders is diminishing with each day he is away from the team.

Even if the holdout cornerback were to show up Tuesday, Woodson will not play in Oakland's preseason finale Thursday against St. Louis, and he won't be in the starting lineup for the team's season opener on Sept. 12 at Pittsburgh.

If he plays at all against the Steelers, it would be at nickel back, coach Norv Turner said Monday.

"His role will change if and when he gets here," said Turner, who began implementing plans during Monday's practice for the first few games of the regular season.

Woodson, a four-time Pro Bowler, was a no-show for the 33rd day - since the Raiders reported to training camp July 29 - even though he said last Wednesday he planned to end his holdout and start practicing this week.

"It gets harder every day," Turner said. "Again, not having been around Charles and him not being familiar with the defense, it does make it each day more difficult. Certainly each day it would make the role he would have more and more limited. ... I was hoping I'd see him three weeks ago, and the hope builds."

The Raiders placed the franchise tag on Woodson in February and he hasn't signed the team's one-year tender for $8.782 million. He has to sign that before he can start negotiating the longterm deal he wants.

The 27-year-old Woodson, who's entering his seventh pro season, reportedly wants to be the highest paid cornerback in the NFL.

Late last season, he said, "I want every penny."

His teammates remain supportive - at least they're saying that. They understand the business side of the sport.

"The most important thing is to find out if he's in shape," free safety Ray Buchanan said. "I've never been in a situation where I've ever held out and then had to come in and play a game, so that's sort of different for me. In this situation, from a coach's standpoint, he's probably just getting the plays down. They probably wouldn't want to just throw him into the fire him not knowing what he's doing."

Buchanan hasn't spoken to Woodson since last week, but he is prepared to help him get up to speed once he does report.

Woodson has been working out twice a day in Houston, so the Raiders aren't as concerned about his fitness level as they are his ability to play catch-up in new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan's new 3-4 scheme.

"We're just anxious to get him here," Turner said. "It's the same thing I said a month ago. When he gets here, we'll get him started."

Denard Walker, a seven-year veteran, has had a strong camp and Turner is confident he can continue to fill Woodson's spot for now.

"It's not a deal where, gosh, we can't play without him," Turner said.

Woodson was the team's first-round draft pick out of Michigan in 1998, one year after he won the Heisman Trophy.

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