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Raiders' Charles Woodson to retire after 2015 season

Charles Woodson will leave the NFL playing as well as he did upon entering the league 18 years ago.

The Oakland Raiders safety announced Monday evening that he will retire after the 2015 season.

"2015 is going to be my last season playing in the NFL," Woodson said. "Was it a tough decision? Kind of in a way. But a couple weeks ago it hit me that this would be it. It's important for me to let Raider Nation know now."

One of the most versatile, talented and productive defensive backs in NFL history, Woodson was a three-time first-team All-Pro at cornerback for the Raiders and Green Bay Packers before successfully converting to safety in his twilight years.

After edging Peyton Manning out for the Heisman Trophy as a rare "two-way player" at the college level, the former Michigan star earned NFL Rookie of the Year honors as the defensive equivalent to fellow first-year phenom Randy Moss in 1998.

"When he learns more about technique," then-Rams receivers coach Al Saunders said at the time, "he has a chance to be one of the best to ever play the position."

Saunders' evaluation was prescient. Named to the All-2000s Team by the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Woodson peaked as the NFL Defensive Player of the Year with the Packers in a 2009 season which featured nine interceptions and three touchdowns.

"He's fearless," former Buccaneers quarterback Trent Dilfer told NFL Media columnist Michael Silver back in a 1999 feature for Sports Illustrated. "There are certain guys you play against who act like they're the best guy on the field. He's one who went out and backed it up."

"Charles Woodson is one of those players that comes along and reminds you why you love the game," Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie said in a statement released by the team.

Few defensive backs have compiled a stronger dossier than Woodson, who is sixth on the all time interceptions list with 65 and is tied for the most career defensive touchdowns with 13.

Although he was a bona fide star upon stepping foot in the NFL, Woodson is notable for authoring one of most accomplished post-30 careers we've seen from any defensive player.

It's incredible in hindsight that Woodson spent eight weeks on the free agent market in 2006 after breaking his leg during the 2005 season. At that point, it seemed inconceivable that he would eventually be regarded as a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

Woodson is one of the few players ever to play in a Pro Bowl in three different decades (1990s, 2000s, 2010s). He's a veritable lock to return for his ninth career trip after a stellar Indian summer season that includes five interceptions, an NFL-high three fumble recoveries and the Defensive Player of the Month award for October.

Prior to Week 5, Woodson lamented that he never intercepted a pass from Manning -- the player who was drafted three slots higher in 1998. The 39-year-old safety proceeded to pick off a pair of passes from the 39-year-old quarterback in a defining performance.

"It's been an incredible career man," Woodson said Monday night. "It goes beyond words. You know I never intended on playing as long as I have. But it's the way that it has happened."

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