GREEN BAY—The wait will finally be over for Charles Woodson.
The veteran defensive back has been medically cleared to play on Saturday night against the Vikings, Mike McCarthy said, and Woodson’s teammates and coaches are eager to see what he’ll bring to the table.
“I just think having Charles Woodson back on the field helps our football team,” McCarthy said on Tuesday following a short jog-through practice. “Just what he’s meant to our defense and his playmaking ability, his ability to make plays around the line of scrimmage. He’s extremely productive.”
Woodson has been out since breaking his collarbone in the fourth quarter in St. Louis in Week 7. He sat out the final nine regular-season games, despite practicing regularly for the last month, because the doctors wanted to give the bone more time to heal.
Saturday night will be one day shy of 11 full weeks since the injury. Woodson wasn’t available in the locker room after practice, but cornerback Tramon Williams, who has played alongside Woodson more than anyone else in the Packers secondary, doesn’t believe the long layoff will keep Woodson from being at his best.
“How can you expect anything else?” Williams said. “He’s been out for a while, but I’ve been one to witness him play through so many injuries to where he couldn’t practice all week and (he would) just show up every weekend and play at a high level. I have no doubt in my mind he can come out and play at a high level.”
Young safeties M.D. Jennings and Jerron McMillian have filled in admirably for Woodson over the last two months, but Williams feels Woodson’s experience can be a key factor in a playoff game, particularly in Dom Capers’ scheme.
“This defense is based off of deception and disguise, and Charles is so experienced to where he knows how long to hold the disguise,” Williams said. “He knows these things, and he’s not scared to do it. It’s definitely going to help us out in the long run.”
There won’t be much deception to what the Vikings do with running back Adrian Peterson, and it will be up to the Packers to adjust.
McCarthy and his players both spoke on Tuesday of being a little over-aggressive against Peterson last Sunday, when he broke out of several piles to rush for 199 yards.
Focusing too much on the “runner” and not “run defense” is how McCarthy explained it, and the fundamental breakdowns can’t be repeated.
“Playing run defense is about gap control, it’s playing with leverage,” McCarthy said. “There were a number of times we were in good shape, he went into the line, and we had guys that would peek and lose their leverage, and he would bounce outside for big gains. So it’s important for us to stay in tune with what we’re doing.”
Safety Morgan Burnett put it another way, saying it’s about “not being nosy, and just trusting that your next guy will be there to help you.”
If one of those “next guys” is Woodson, the Packers will hope that might make a difference. He’s been known to play any role in Capers’ defense, from attacking at the line of scrimmage to sitting back and reading the quarterback. Last year, he intercepted Minnesota’s Christian Ponder twice.
Ponder showed far more polish as a passer last Sunday in perhaps the most impressive performance of his career. Woodson hasn’t faced this Ponder yet, but it’s a good bet he can’t wait.
“Obviously, he’s been itching to get out there,” Williams said. “Now he’s getting his opportunity, so I think he’ll make the best of it.” Additional coverage - Jan. 1