Just as he promised, Charles Woodson is going to the White House to see President Barack Obama.
“Guys on this team have been waiting on it,” the Packers cornerback said on Wednesday, after it was announced the Packers had received an invitation to visit the White House on Friday, Aug. 12.
It was Woodson who, following the Packers’ win in last January’s NFC title game, said that if President Obama wouldn’t come to see the Packers, the Packers would go to see him. President Obama, a Bears fan, had previously said he would go to the Super Bowl if the Bears beat the Packers in the NFC title game.
“It’s good football played up here. He should jump on board,” Woodson said when asked if President Obama should change his allegiance from the Bears to the Packers.
Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy told his team shortly after noon on Wednesday that its long-awaited visit to the White House was on the horizon. The reaction?
“It’s about time,” linebacker Desmond Bishop said. “A lot of people have been talking about it. I think everybody is excited about getting a chance to visit with Obama.”
No Packers player seemed to be more excited about the trip than safety Nick Collins, one of the stars of the Packers’ Super Bowl XLV win over the Steelers.
“Can’t wait,” Collins said. “It’s gonna be a good day. We ain’t gonna tease him. We’ve been asking for it. It’s here.”
The Packers will make the stop in Washington part of the team’s travel itinerary for its trip to Cleveland for the following day’s preseason opener. News of the White House visit gave players a reprieve from the usual battery of training camp questions.
“It was a different team that won the Super Bowl and will go to meet the president,” tackle Bryan Bulaga said, referring especially to several players who have since departed the Packers.
“You want those guys to be there because they were part of that championship,” Collins said. “Unfortunately, they moved on and we moved on. That’s part of this business. They’ll be with us.”
“It would’ve been nice if we could’ve done this back in the spring and taken some people,” General Manager Ted Thompson said, obviously referring to those players no longer with the team. “We’re glad we were able to find a date.”
The visit to the White House will cap the Packers’ Super Bowl celebration. Veteran linebacker A.J. Hawk said it won’t be a distraction to the team’s efforts to move forward into 2011.
“We weren’t sure if it was going to happen or not. The Super Bowl seems like it’s so long ago. Once you start the next season, it’s not a distraction,” Hawk said.
Hawk said the Packers’ full attention now is on getting off to a fast start in the regular season.
“We didn’t get into the playoffs the way we’d like. All we’re thinking about is getting a fast start,” Hawk said.
The Packers will have an opportunity to get the early jump on another top NFC postseason contender, the 2009 season’s Super Bowl champions, the New Orleans Saints, when the Packers host the Saints in the NFL season opener on Sept. 8. It’s game that might go a long way toward deciding homefield advantage in the playoffs.
“Everyone is looking forward to that game. That’s a big stage and we play well in games like that,” Hawk said.
You bet they do. President Obama and Bears fans found that out last January.