Woodson was voted the Packers’ 2010 recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award, which was announced in a team meeting earlier this week.
“It’s a real honor because, … I was trying to think of who I would vote for, so I had no clue that guys were going to vote for me,” Woodson said. “For them to think of me in that respect, it means a lot.”
The Ed Block Courage Award Foundation is an NFL-supported charity dedicated to recognizing courage and annually bestows an award to a player from each NFL team who, in the eyes of his teammates, exemplifies a commitment to sportsmanship and courage.
Playing through injuries has become commonplace with Woodson in his five seasons with the Packers, with hardly a limb having been spared from the injury report at one time or another. This year has been no different, with a sore toe that Woodson broke in 2008 (though he continued to play then, too) keeping him off the practice field here and there.
He hasn’t missed a game this season, and has missed only one due to injury in his five years in Green Bay (Week 13, 2007). His teammates say this award is a sincere acknowledgement of that commitment to the team.
“It’s his character – he lays it on the line every week,” said safety Nick Collins, the team’s 2009 Ed Block recipient. “I know he misses a lot of practice, but at any given time when we need him on Sunday, he shows up. I think a lot of guys value that. He’s played this game a long time and knows a lot about this game. Just his leadership got him that award, and I was one of those guys to vote for him. It’s just the respect I have for the guy.”
Fellow cornerback Tramon Williams echoed those thoughts.
“He’s always there on Sunday, and when it’s all said and done, that’s what really counts,” Williams said. “Obviously everyone respects a guy who comes and gives their all for the team, even when they’re hurt, and that just says a lot about a player and a person off the field, the character he has.”
This year, Woodson has set career highs in both tackles (97) and forced fumbles (five), and he has two interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown. That was his eighth INT for a TD with Green Bay, a new franchise record, and the 10th of his career, moving him into third place on the all-time list.
He’s had an interesting season away from the field as well, adding a second son to his family in October. Woodson said the baby “came a little early” and was small at birth, “but he’s doing well, so it’s good. I’m just enjoying being a father, having two little boys at home. It’s a lot of work, but a lot of fun.”
Woodson understands how important it is for him, a proven star who earned his seventh Pro Bowl bid this season, to set an example within the locker room. Whether it’s playing hurt or studying extra film, he takes the responsibility seriously.
“Absolutely,” he said. “I just try to go out there and do what I can do for the team, but at the same time, let them see how I think it should be done. Hopefully it can carry over to some of those guys and they can see the way I do it, the way I’ve stuck around for a long time, and continued to play at a high level. If they can see that, guys will follow suit.”
One who has is Williams, who has a team-high and career-high six interceptions this season, earning first-alternate status for the Pro Bowl. Having attended meetings, film sessions and practices with Woodson since coming to Green Bay late in the 2006 season, Williams credits the veteran mentor for helping him develop from a non-drafted practice-squadder into one of the top cover corners in the NFC.
“No doubt about it,” Williams said. “He’s been there in a time of need for me, even when things weren’t going all that well. He was there, coaching me up on some things and making sure I knew everything going on, on and off the field. He showed me how to be a pro, how to live your life right, and that’s what counts.”
In addition to Collins, other recent Green Bay winners of the Ed Block Courage Award include tackle Mark Tauscher (2008), receiver Chris Francies (’07), punter Jon Ryan (’06) and receiver Donald Driver (’05).
1-2 pass-rush punch
As first-round draft picks from the same 2009 class, linebacker Clay Matthews and nose tackle B.J. Raji will inevitably be linked in Packers lore for a long time hence.
But Matthews suggested on Thursday that the two of them might be taking that connection from the draft ledger to the playing field.
Not that Matthews was taking any credit for Raji’s recent run of impressive play, but as Matthews has continued to attract more and more attention from opposing offenses as an outside rusher, it’s logical to presume Raji has benefited somewhat on the inside. As an interior rusher, Raji has four sacks over his last four games to run his season total to 6½, while Matthews has just one sack over that span and still leads the team with 12½.
“Fortunately for me they’re going to have to start showing him some respect now, and that will take a guy off,” said Matthews, whose shin injury has subsided enough to allow him to practice more these last two weeks than in quite some time. “It’s a good little tandem. That’s why once we’re full strength, it’s going to be hard to single(-block) guys here with the amount of talent we have.”
Matthews might have seen more double- and triple-teams last week against the Giants than he’s ever seen before, and he even noticed Raji getting some double-teams up the middle as well. Eventually that should free someone up, with Matthews noting the pass rush can’t get Cullen Jenkins and his seven sacks back soon enough.
“I think B.J. is really coming into his own now,” Matthews said. “Sacks are kind of like a drug. You want more, and I think B.J. is starting to get the taste of it now. He’s turning into a pretty good pass rusher, and with Cullen back, myself, it presents some problems.”
But will Cullen be back?
Jenkins hopes to be, but it’s still an iffy proposition. He has missed the last three games with a calf injury, and he continues to rehab it, but it’s not full-go yet. He did not practice again on Thursday.
“It’s still up in the air,” Jenkins said of his playing status. “It’s something where obviously it’s going to have to make some more strides to get to that point to be able to play. But it’s nice to be able to get out on the field and move around and see progress and see it getting better. We’re still holding onto hope.”
Jenkins is aware, obviously, of what’s on the line in this week’s game against the Bears, and while it’s hard not to think about that, he said that really can’t enter into the decision-making process.
“It’s tough because there’s a lot at stake here,” he said. “You want to get out there, but I’ve got all the confidence in the world in the team. I don’t think that me alone is going to make the difference, and I don’t want to go out on the field and, one, put the team in jeopardy trying to play if I’m not ready, and then two, end up messing up myself for the future, for a (playoff) run later on.
“We’re really going to be smart about the decision whether or not to go.”
More on injuries
Rookie cornerback Sam Shields missed practice on Thursday after being limited on Wednesday following a flare-up with his knee earlier in the week. But Head Coach Mike McCarthy didn’t sound overly concerned and indicated Shields could return to practice on Friday following a morning examination with the medical staff.
“He’ll potentially practice,” McCarthy said. “He seems very positive about it.”
In addition to Shields, Woodson (toe) and defensive end Ryan Pickett (ankle) were both downgraded as well, from full to limited participants for Thursday’s full-pads practice. Tackle Chad Clifton (knees) and center Scott Wells (back) were both upgraded from limited to full.
The rest of the Packers’ injury report remained the same, with safety Nick Collins (ribs) and Matthews (shin) remaining limited, while linebacker Erik Walden (quadriceps) was full. Guard Marshall Newhouse (back) and linebacker Frank Zombo (knee) both sat out.
For the Bears, linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa (knee) was a full participant after not practicing the previous day, while receiver Earl Bennett (ankle) continued to sit out. Center Olin Kreutz (not injury related) was removed from Chicago’s injury report.
Additional coverage - Dec. 30