HENDERSON, Nev. — What’s in a number?
When it comes to the Las Vegas Raiders and 24, there is more than you know. Just ask Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive back Charles Woodson, who explains exactly what comes with wearing it and how excited he is to see it back in circulation with the Raiders’ recent addition of veteran cornerback Marcus Peters.
“Well, I came here and I got indoctrinated to the 24,” Woodson said. “And Willie Brown was really adamant, you know, about me wearing the 24. But it’s not necessarily just about the 24; it’s the lineage of defensive backs here. You take a lot of pride in representing and trying to go out there and be the best defensive back in the game because that’s what those guys represented.
“You had Willie Brown, Mike Hayes, Lester Hayes. But Willie Brown was like the Godfather. So having that 24 on, it really meant a lot. And so, I know Marcus Peters, he feels the same way. He grew up a Raiders fan, so he knows all about the history of the Raiders. So I’m happy to have a guy that knows how to make plays in that number. I can’t wait to see what he does this year.”
If so, Peters isn’t letting on. Not with his childhood fandom coming full circle. After all, Peters grew up in Oakland and considers himself a historian, so to speak, of everything Silver and Black.
“I was always a Raider, man,” Peters said with a big smile. “It was something that was in me since I was a little kid. But it feels good to be a Raider now, to be able to play in the same uniform that I watched growing up.”
Need more proof?
“The Tuck Rule killed us, man,” said Peters, who had just turned 9 years old when Woodson’s seeming playoff game-sealing strip sack of Tom Brady was overturned on a snowy New England night. “Oakland ain’t been the same since.”
Peters notably wore an Oakland A’s cap to his contract signing as well as to his media availability, sending a message against the backdrop of the Athletics’ intentions to eventually join the Raiders in Las Vegas (the NBA’s Warriors also recently abandoned Oakland, going to San Francisco).
“It’s just something that’s in me, you know what I’m saying?” Peters said. “Being a little kid riding the bus, riding the BART and being able to see [the Oakland Coliseum] right there and seeing just historical stuff going on. It’s a blessing, man, for a little kid to come from West Oakland to be able to be putting on his jersey now. It’s a blessing.”
Sure, others wore the number between the late Brown and Woodson (Lance Harkey, Ron Brown, Patrick Bates and Larry Brown) and between Woodson and Peters (Michael Huff, Marshawn Lynch and, most recently, Johnathan Abram).
But the Raiders adding Peters, a three-time Pro Bowler and 2015 Defensive Rookie of the Year, on the eve of training camp is about more than fulfilling an Oakland kid’s love affair with his favorite team. Las Vegas needed help in the secondary — in both production and leadership.
Consider: Peters’ 32 career interceptions are 26 more than the other corners on the roster. He also has six pick-sixes.
“I play offense on defense and defense on offense,” he said. “They go hand in hand. I want to get the ball, and when the ball is in the air, you’ve got to have a will and want to go get it … you’ve got to just make sure that infects the whole locker room and we all just do it as one unit — you feel me? — and it’s going to pay off for us.
“I tell everybody, man, ‘I’m an open book, and for you to get the information, you’ve got to go want to pull it out of the library and you’ve got to want to go read it.'”
The youngsters in the DB room are already gravitating toward the guy they affectionately call “OG.” Peters turned 30 in January.
Fourth-round pick Jakorian Bennett, who could potentially start across from Peters, has his library card.
“He just comes over and ask questions, and every question he’s got [that] I don’t got the answer, we’re going to figure it out together,” Peters said. “And then we get in the meeting room, he sits right next to me and he’s still asking questions. And that’s how it goes, that’s how game is passed down most of the time.”
Said Bennett: “He’s a ball hawk … so smooth and just cerebral. But yeah, him just kind of being an open book … if I can get some of the knowledge he has, going into Year 1, that can just kind of slow the game down for me, a lot.”
To be fair, Peters’ production has slowed the past few seasons, as he’s bounced from the Kansas City Chiefs — who drafted him in the first round out of Washington in 2015 — to the Los Angeles Rams, with whom the Raiders are conducting joint practices this week before playing an exhibition Saturday at SoFi Stadium, to the Baltimore Ravens.
To be even more fair, Peters missed the entire 2021 season after suffering a torn ACL just before the opener. He had only one interception for the Ravens last season.
The Raiders, who inked Peters to a one-year, $3 million contract with $1.165 million guaranteed on July 24, are hoping he does more than lead by example. They’re looking for a renaissance.
By the guy wearing the jersey number of his favorite cornerback growing up.
“I know some people might say Deion [Sanders], but me being able to be in the backyards of C-Wood, and watching him do what he was doing as a rookie and then keep going on, man, and then he used to be out in Oakland streets? And my pops and them just tell us stories about them chilling and hanging out? That’s big,” Peters said. “It’s just a blessing to be able to rock a number that he wore. Yeah, it’s a blessing. I don’t know I got too many words for that, but a blessing.”
Oh, and there’s one other longtime Raiders fan who will be sporting a Raiders No. 24 jersey for the first time this season.
“My pops ain’t never put on none of my jerseys because he’s a Raiders fan,” Peters laughed. “And now he gets to put on one and feel proud about it.”
And that’s what’s in a number.