GREEN BAY – Charles Woodson has gone from a favorite teammate to a physical marvel among those in the Packers locker room who know him.
As the Packers are watching film of Oakland’s defense in advance of Sunday’s game, Woodson – now in his 18th NFL season and playing safety for the Raiders – no doubt stands out.
“It’s hard not to watch Charles Woodson,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said of his film study this week. Woodson played seven seasons for the Packers (2006-12), winning NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2009 and then a Super Bowl in 2010.
“He was a great leader for us at a time where we needed that type of leadership, and he took us to a special place and had a lot of memories together.
“He’s playing great football. It’s impressive to see. Obviously I’m a little biased, but I think any fair opinion out there would say he’s playing the position at the top of his game right now.”
Rodgers’ current teammates certainly agree. Woodson has five interceptions this season, his most since 2011 with the Packers.
“He looks like a young man,” said receiver James Jones, who played with Woodson as recently as last season in Oakland. “He’s picking stuff off, he’s causing fumbles, he’s around the ball. Everywhere the ball is, you see ‘24’ in there.
“He can play until he’s probably 50 because he understands the game so well.”
That might be a stretch, but it is remarkable to think that when Woodson won the Heisman Trophy at Michigan in 1997, current Packers safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix – who now wears the No. 21 Woodson wore here – was in pre-kindergarten.
“To know I’m in my eighth year and he’s still playing in the NFL just blows my mind,” said guard Josh Sitton, who was drafted in 2008, two years after Woodson arrived in Green Bay as a free agent. “It’s pretty cool. It’s very impressive.”
Rodgers ranked Woodson in the “top two or three” of his all-time favorite teammates and confessed it was difficult to see such a great friend and leader released after the 2012 season.
He still appreciates what Charles did for him as a quarterback, especially early in his career, learning his trade in training camp as Brett Favre’s backup.
“He made me a lot better player,” Rodgers said. “I got to work on my look-offs and my no-look passes against Charles, because if you weren’t aware of where he was at on every single rep, he would make you look bad.
“The last thing you want to see is Charles holding that ball up after an interception and tossing it back to you. He made everybody better when he was here and still doing it.”
Another player making opposing offenses look bad is Oakland outside linebacker Khalil Mack, who now leads the league with 14 sacks after a dominant five-sack performance last Sunday in Denver.
Incredibly, all five of Mack’s sacks came in the second half, and four of them came against Denver’s right tackle, which puts a big spotlight on Green Bay’s Bryan Bulaga this week.
“I think he has everything, to be honest with you,” Bulaga said. “He’s a strong guy. If you watch how he got most of his sacks against Denver, he’s a strong dude. You have to be ready for everything, because he’s got good speed as well.”
Mack never quits on a snap, and the Packers have to be prepared for that as much as anything.
“A lot of extra-effort plays,” Rodgers said of Mack’s five sacks last week. “He just keeps coming.”
Much like Woodson just keeps playing.
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