Special bond with Michigan coach helped Charles Woodson become a legend


Special bond with Michigan coach helped Charles Woodson become a legend

Raiders legend Charles Woodson was recruited to the University of Michigan by a coaching staff he never got to play for. A sudden regime change elevated Lloyd Carr to head coach and put Vance Bedford in charge of Woodson’s development.

Woodson met Michigan’s new defensive backs coach before the 1995 season and came away with a distinct impression.

“I thought he was a cocky, arrogant young coach,” Woodson said. “He reminded me a lot of myself. That’s probably why we related to each other.”

Woodson was the best prep football player in the state of Ohio that year, a supreme talent who knew exactly how good he was. He had all the accolades to prove it, but Bedford didn’t care.

He refused to join the chorus of those inflating Woodson’s ego. Bedford didn’t give supreme athletic gifts preferential treatment.

“Charles needed to be coached hard,” Bedford said. “Being a superstar in high school, at first I coached him harder than some others. so I could get him to think the Michigan way.”

Assimilation didn’t come easy. Woodson bucked and then Bedford tightened reins several times, but a lasting respect was formed during this battle of wills.

“We clashed a little bit because we were a lot alike, but that turned out to be a good thing,” Woodson said. “We went head to head a little bit, but turned out to be a great relationship.”

It’s a relationship Woodson holds dear to this day, one he credits for launching a Hall of Fame career. That’s why the legendary Raider, one of the greatest defensive backs in the history of college and professional football is honoring Bedford at the Fifth Annual Coaching Corps Game Changer Awards on Wednesday night.

The mission of Coaching Corps Game Changer Awards is to give professional athletes an opportunity to acknowledge coaches who have been influential to their success while also raising money and awareness for Coaching Corps, a nonprofit that provides youth in underserved areas access to trained coaches in a variety of sports.

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Woodson will be one of several prominent Bay Area athletes honoring coaches who impacted their lives on and off the field at the annual gala, which will be broadcast on Sunday at 7 p.m. on NBC Sports Bay Area.

“He took raw talent and molded me into a guy who could be the best player on the field at that cornerback position,” Woodson said. “It all started in 1995. He took a young player and imparted wisdom over time. In 1998, he told me, ‘just go out and play football. I’ve given you all I can give you as a coach. Now it’s time to take all of that and be the best player in the country.’

Coach Bedford got me to that level, which is why I’m so very proud to honor him in this way.”

That level was good enough to win the Heisman Trophy and help Michigan win a national championship. That level was the foundation of an excellent NFL career, with the Raiders and Green Bay Packers and then the Raiders again. Woodson won a Super Bowl and a defensive player of the year award. He was a three-time first-team All-Pro and a nine-time Pro Bowler, with numerous NFL records to his credit.

He’s widely considered among the greatest to ever play over 18 professional seasons. He was tutored by several excellent coaches, none more influential than Bedford.

“I tried to instill hard work and work ethic,” Bedford said. “Things came easy to Charles but sometimes everyone hits a bump in the road. It was my responsibility to prepare him for those moments.”

Raiders playing on 80-yard field won't change Jon Gruden's evaluation


Raiders playing on 80-yard field won't change Jon Gruden's evaluation

Jon Gruden didn’t have a problem with IG Field’s playing surface. The Raiders head coach made that clear after Thursday’s 22-21 preseason victory over the Green Bay Packers in Winnipeg, an exhibition played on an 80-yard field due to concerns over unstable turf in one end zone.

“The field, I don’t know that was all about,” Gruden said. “We thought the field was perfectly fine.”

Playing on unusual dimensions simply could be a novelty if the Raiders still found value in game tape.

Gruden said that was the case, and it won’t alter how they look at the game action taking place among backups, with starters and significant role players sitting this one out.

“It’s not going to change the evaluation, other than we didn’t get some kickoffs, or some opportunities in special teams,” Gruden said. “I’m not going to make a big deal about the field. We like the field. We thought the field was perfectly ready to roll. You’d have to ask Green Bay about that.

“It didn’t impact our play calling or our evaluations. We just adapted, as they did, to the new dimensions of the field.”

[RELATED: Peterman impresses Gruden again, has shot to make Raiders]

The Raiders gave a home preseason game to Winnipeg, making this the second of three straight exhibition games played away from Oakland. Gruden said the experience worked out just fine, and that the team doesn’t consider the extra travel or field issues or things like that a distraction from their preparation for the regular season.

“It’s weird playing a home game in Winnipeg, but it’s exciting,” Gruden said. “It’s a great opportunity to spend some time together. We left some players at home. We had some players show up and not play. It was a good road trip. There are not as many distractions here as people think. Antonio Brown’s doing fine. We have a good, young football team.”

Nathan Peterman could make Raiders’ roster after impressing Jon Gruden again

Nathan Peterman could make Raiders’ roster after impressing Jon Gruden again

Who doesn't love a good redemption story?

Nathan Peterman's career got off to about the worst start an NFL quarterback has ever had. He threw five interceptions in his first start for the Buffalo Bills, and he has been used as a punchline ever since.

Then he came to Oakland, and has caught the eye of Raiders coach Jon Gruden. 

Peterman has been in a battle with Mike Glennon for the Raiders' backup quarterback position throughout training camp and the preseason. Glennon has taken the second-string reps through the first three preseason games and appears to have the upper hand in the competition. 

But that doesn't mean Peterman will be looking for a new home soon. 

The Pittsburgh product has impressed Gruden throughout camp and the preseason, and he played well again Thursday night against the Green Bay Packers at IG Field in Winnipeg. 

Despite the shortened 80-yard field, Peterman continued his march into Gruden's heart and the Raiders' 53-man roster. After Glennon played the first quarter against the Packers, Peterman was handed the reins and did everything Gruden could have wanted, completing 23 of 37 passes for 210 yards and two touchdowns, while also leading the Silver and Black into field-goal range to set up Daniel Carlson's game-winning 33-yard boot. 

The Raiders left Canada with a 22-21 win, and while a lot can't be gleaned from a game played on a shortened field, Peterman's performance was something to note. 

"Well, we had seen enough of Glennon, to be honest," Gruden said after the game of the snap discrepancy. "He played very well in Arizona [last week]. I thought he did some good things tonight.

”I like Peterman. I've said that for a while now, and I thought he had two touchdown passes that were dropped today, right on the money. Had a couple other balls that were dropped, right on the money. He took care of the ball. Didn't turn it over throughout the preseason. He's athletic. 

"I like what he did tonight. Especially late in the football game."

Those statements would lead you to believe Glennon has won the backup job, but Gruden wasn't ready to make that announcement. 

"I'm not going to get into anything right now other than we got two pretty good quarterbacks that are competing for the No. 2 spot," Gruden said. "We call the game differently when Mike is in there than when Nate is in there. That will be the case if we keep all three, or whoever the backup is. I thought both of those guys performed well the last three games."

The Raiders didn't keep three quarterbacks on their roster last season, and most expected the Silver and Black to have just two when the Denver Broncos come to the Coliseum to open the regular season on Sept. 9. 

[RELATED: Raiders receivers coach breaks down stacked position group]

Peterman's play, however, might have changed the equation. 

"I've always kept three — last year was the first time we didn't," Gruden said. "I'm not saying we're going to keep two or three, but we are going to try and keep the best 53 guys. We've got three guys who can play the position, and we'll have to make that decision here in the next week."

Peter-Can make the roster? You bet.