Green Bay Packers veteran defensive back Charles Woodson was declared out for Sunday’s final regular season home game against the Tennessee Titans – somewhat of a surprise considering the fact that many felt Woodson would make his return to the field last week agains the Chicago Bears. That didn’t happen and it won’t happen this week either.
Woodson has been practicing lightly the past couple of weeks, but hasn’t been cleared for contact by the Packers medical staff.
This will be the eighth straight game that Woodson has missed, raising many questions about exactly where Woodson will fit into the lineup once he finally does make his return to the field. Given the rise of the young players – Casey Hayward and Jerron McMillian, specifically – there is speculation that Woodson might have difficulties in finding playing time.
Woodson isn’t worried about that and he’s also not concerned about his future with the Packers – he’s signed through 2014.
When asked in an interview with the Green Bay Press Gazette this week about his immediate and future place with the team, Woodson said he definitely plans to make it back onto the field yet this season and also has plans to be back with Green Bay next year.
“Until somebody tells me I’m not, this is where I plan on playing,” Woodson said. “I haven’t had that conversation. If that conversation comes around, it comes around, but as far as I know is, anything that I expect is that I’ll be a Green Bay Packer. That’s all I have to say about that.” Next year would be Woodson’s 16th in the NFL.
Clearly, the young guys have stepped into a difficult situation and in many ways have made the Packers defense better. The athleticism and youthful explosion on the field has given the Packers a new look and a new feel. But how do you not put a Charles Woodson back on the field? Even if he has lost a step physically, his smarts, experience and leadership is invaluable to the team.
Defensive coordinator Dom Capers knows this and has to deal with the situation. Clearly, it’s a good problem to have. Even if the Packers bring Woodson back slowly, putting him back on the field – no matter the situation – should not produce a drop-off in talent. Bringing Woodson back for the Playoffs would also be a good move by the Packers. If he plays in the final regular season game at Minnesota, that would be a bonus, but having him on the field for that first home Playoff game would be a big bonus for the defense.
Woodson has said he will be back this year. He’s been clear about that. We believe him – it’s just a matter of time.
“Whenever the time comes, I know how to play football,” Woodson said. “That’s one thing you don’t (forget). Just because you have time off, doesn’t mean you forget how to play the game. I know how to play the game. I know the defense, and so when that time comes, I’ll be ready.”
However, in the meantime, the Packers have other injury issues that must be resolved in the next couple of weeks. Declared out again this week, in addition to Woodson, was wide receiver Jordy Nelson (hamstring), running back James Starks (knee), defensive end C.J. Wilson (knee), and tight end Tom Crabtree (hamstring). Running back John Kuhn didn’t practice for a couple of days for personal reasons, but Coach Mike McCarthy believes he will play.
Adding to the injury issue was the question of whether running back Alex Green (concussion) would play. If he doesn’t, the Packers would be down to Ryan Grant, DuJuan Harris and Kuhn. Not exactly a stable filled with players one could count on.
While the Packers will be favored at home against a Titans team going through significant changes, this is a crucial game in helping determine seeding for the Playoffs. They need as many of their starters on the field as they can get.