But Woodson is cool with the way it turned out. There’s no way to tell how much impact his inspirational words before and after the games have had – if you haven’t seen the post-game talk following the NFC Championship win in Chicago, click here – but there’s no denying the results, which have been three postseason wins and a trip to Super Bowl XLV.
“I think the guys have a lot of respect for me, a lot of respect for my career, the way I play the game,” Woodson said Monday as a half-dozen players visited with reporters upon arriving at the team hotel in Irving, Texas, late Monday afternoon.
“That’s kind of how it is, you kind of lead by example, and at times you’re needed to speak, and you do that. It’s something that I’m fine with. I’m comfortable doing it, and it’s worked so far and it’s been good for us.
“Hopefully for one more time.”
Head Coach Mike McCarthy explained on Monday that for the playoffs this year, he decided to turn the pre-game prayer and talk, as well as the post-game talk, over to the six playoff captains. He let quarterback Aaron Rodgers and receiver Greg Jennings (offense), Woodson and linebacker A.J. Hawk (defense), and cornerback Jarrett Bush and kicker Mason Crosby (special teams) sort it out.
Apparently it didn’t take long. Almost by assumption, Rodgers took over the pre-game prayer and Woodson was given the speaking duties. It’s an arrangement, and a responsibility, McCarthy feels has worked well in the locker room.
“The last words before we leave the locker room are going to come from our players,” McCarthy said. “It’s a players’ game, it’s important for us all to be on point with our messaging each week.
“It’s something I think has definitely worked. It’s an opportunity for our leaders to step to the forefront and I’ve watched them two grow, particularly this last month as leaders, and our football team has responded in a very favorable way.”
While Woodson’s most-discussed reference following the Chicago game was admittedly “spur of the moment” – the one about visiting the President in Washington, D.C., (a tradition for Super Bowl winners) since Barack Obama wouldn’t be coming to Dallas with his favorite team, the Bears, eliminated – he doesn’t just speak off the cuff.
His words do convey his 13 years of experience in the NFL, and how every playoff opportunity needs to be maximized because no one knows how many more opportunities might come along. That thought is of course heightened now that the Packers have reached the Super Bowl, a destination to which Woodson has waited eight years to return after coming out on the losing end with Oakland against Tampa Bay in Super Bowl XXXVIII.
“I go through a few different things in my mind, just to try to prepare myself,” Woodson said. “As I stated a couple days ago, you don’t want to get up there and just ramble. I try to put some thoughts together, and once I get up in front of the team, hopefully it comes off clearly.”
It comes off as sincere, more than anything, to his teammates.
“He’s a special type of guy, a special player,” Hawk said. “I think he’s really embraced it and done really well with that. I think just because it’s natural for him.
“We had another guy on the team say this – he’s never the loudest guy in the locker room, he’s never talking the most, because anyone knows, it’s like having a boss that just sits there and yells at you every day. You’re going to tune him out after a day or so. And Charles, when he talks, when he speaks, he means it. We know it’s coming from the heart, and it’s good to see.”
Five years ago when Woodson first came to Green Bay, he might have been the last player anyone pictured in that role. Having signed as a free agent that no other team apparently wanted in 2006, Woodson wasn’t initially thrilled to be with the Packers and any leadership roles he assumed as a veteran were limited and very much behind the scenes.
But as Woodson has come to love Green Bay both as a place to play and live – he has started a family and now has two young sons at home – he has gradually become much more of a public leader on the team and has grown into the role.
“You talk about trust, you talk about opportunity, you talk about focus, but you have to make sure you are creating an environment for that to exist and grow,” McCarthy said. “I think he is a perfect example of that.”
He’s also probably the perfect player to speak to the team before it takes the field Sunday for the Super Bowl.
He’s one of only two players on the team who has played in this game (defensive end Ryan Pickett, who did so as a rookie with St. Louis, is the other), so walking past the three Vince Lombardi trophies every day in the players’ lounge at Lambeau Field probably evokes different types of emotions for him than for other players.
“Yeah, it reminds you of what it’s all about,” Woodson said. “Those teams, they have something to show for their hard work. Not that I don’t have anything, or none of the guys have anything to show for their hard work, but that epitomizes it.”
Woodson wasn’t giving any sneak previews Monday of what he might say, but it sounds like he’s off to a good start already. Much like the duty sort of happened to become his, and rightly so, the most important of his postseason talks may already be coming to him early in the week.
“We see it every day,” he continued about the trophy case, “and also the pictures that we see going in and out of Lambeau, the team pictures of the championship teams, all of those things are reminders of what we’re trying to become.
“Hopefully we can make our place in history.”
Additional coverage - Jan. 31