ALAMEDA -- Nnamdi Asomugha didn't get the chance to say thanks to Al Davis, so he settled for ending his NFL career at the same place he started.

"I never got the opportunity to thank him the way I should have thanked him," Asomugha said Friday at a news conference announcing his retirement from the NFL. "That will always stick with me a little bit."

Asomugha, flanked by Charles Woodson and Lester Hayes on his right and Willie Brown on his left, recalled being drafted No. 31 overall by the Raiders in the first round of the 2003 draft as a safety out of Cal.

"I was considered a reach in great Al Davis fashion," Asomugha said.

Oakland Raiders Nnamdi Asomugha signals a thumb-up to fans before the preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum,
Oakland Raiders Nnamdi Asomugha signals a thumb-up to fans before the preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, in Oakland, Calif., on Thursday, Sept. 2, 2010. (Ray Chavez/Staff) ( RAY CHAVEZ )

Asomugha was surprised that Davis and Brown, an assistant coach, saw him as a cornerback, a position he had never played. Initially, he resisted and shuttled between safety and cornerback.

Then he saw Davis in a hallway at the Raiders facility. Davis asked him what position he wanted to play. Asomugha said safety. Davis asked him what position he thought he would have the most success playing. Asomugha said safety.

"Obviously he wasn't trying to hear that, because he said to me, 'I think you have a chance to be one of the greatest corners we've had here.' I hadn't played corner at all, so for him to say that, I kind of scratched my head," Asomugha said.

Davis began going through the cornerback history of the franchise, which included Brown, Hayes, Woodson and Mike Haynes.


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"He said, 'You have that ability in you. You don't see it yet, but you have it in you,' " Asomugha said.

Davis kept talking. Finally, at the end of the conversation, he asked, "What position do you want to play?"

Said Asomugha: "Cornerback."

It wasn't a smooth transition. Asomugha struggled mightily to the point where Woodson expressed concern to Brown.

"He didn't play like a corner, he didn't have feet like a corner, he didn't move like a corner," Woodson said. "I couldn't see it."

Asomugha worked at his skills and became so good that teams seldom threw in his direction. He gave up only 66 completions in his final six seasons with the Raiders.

Asomugha became an unrestricted free agent after the 2010 season when his Raiders contract became void. He signed with the Eagles, getting $25 million guaranteed in a six-year, $60 million deal.

After two seasons in Philadelphia, where he struggled with a scheme that didn't employ the kind of press man-to-man coverage that made him a standout in Oakland, he was released.

Signed by the 49ers, Asomugha was released Nov. 4.