GREEN BAY—If anything speaks to the way the Packers demand contributions from all, it could be this: One of the defensive standouts in Saturday night’s victory was playing in his 16th postseason game, most of any starter on the team, while one of the offensive stars was playing in his first.
Veteran defensive back Charles Woodson and first-year running back DuJuan Harris had an undeniable impact in the 24-10 triumph over Minnesota that has sent the Packers to San Francisco for the NFC divisional round of the playoffs.
Coming back from a broken collarbone that sidelined him for the final nine regular-season games, Woodson was a presence almost immediately. With the Vikings facing second-and-five from the Green Bay 13-yard line on their opening drive, Woodson knifed into the backfield to take down Adrian Peterson for a two-yard loss, helping hold Minnesota to a field goal.
“It was great to have him out there,” Coach Mike McCarthy said, barely 15 hours after the franchise’s first home playoff victory in five years was in the books. “He’s a fabulous football player.”
McCarthy credited Woodson, already a tireless student of game film, for all the extra effort he put in to be able to return for the playoffs. He has earned so much respect in the locker room that he was voted a playoff captain despite missing more than half of the season, and the early tackle for loss was just another example of how Woodson is always ready to play.
“He’s here around the clock,” McCarthy said. “He puts in a lot more time I think than people realize. There are not too many nights the coaching staff isn’t in the cafeteria for dinner and he’s still here. He’s put in a lot of work to get back on the field.”
Meanwhile, Harris’ workload just continues to increase. A castoff from Jacksonville who was originally signed to the practice squad at midseason, Harris got his first chance in Week 14 vs. Detroit. He responded with a TD run and his role has steadily expanded.
Learning the extensive pass protection responsibilities has allowed him to stay on the field more, and a combination of tough runs and check-down receptions produced 100 yards from scrimmage against the Vikings, including a hard-charging TD run.
Perhaps most impressive, Harris didn’t look like a 24-year-old back making his playoff debut. He dropped a dump-off pass on the offense’s first possession, but shook it off and made a huge contribution.
“He’s a pretty cool customer,” McCarthy said. “I don’t think a whole lot gets him excited.”
McCarthy proceeded to explain that last week, at the raucous, ear-splitting Metrodome, Harris happened to be standing near him and he heard his young back matter-of-factly say, “This is a pretty cool atmosphere. This is pretty neat.”
If that’s how Harris responds to a high-pressure environment, it should only serve the Packers well next week and, perhaps, beyond.
“He’s steady, a steady personality,” McCarthy said. “He does a lot of things naturally, and he’s doing a good job protecting the football.”
As Harris develops into the runner that complements the Packers’ wide-open passing attack, he’s becoming part of the Packers’ identity on offense, just as Woodson is on defense.
Rookie or veteran, it doesn’t matter. Just produce when it counts.
“We are who we are, we really like who we are as a football team, and that’s what we’re taking to San Francisco,” McCarthy said. Additional coverage - Jan. 6