Woodson's role may change
As the Green Bay Packers sort through their options to replace former Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins, though, coaches are acknowledging the possibility that the versatile veteran will spend more time at the position than he has in previous seasons.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Tuesday that Woodson’s role in the defense is likely to change, although McCarthy didn’t provide specifics and estimated that any change would be a small one.
“Charles’ role on our football team may change somewhere between 6 and 8 percent compared to where he’s played in the past,” McCarthy said. “I don’t want to really get too detailed schematically. Really, it’s something we should watch and see—and let our opponents see. We’re not recreating the wheel with him, that’s for sure. I would define him as a playmaker in our defense. And it’s our responsibility to make sure he’s lined up in those positions to make plays.”
McCarthy was emphatic in saying that the 35-year-old Woodson “absolutely” is still an every-down player.
“He looks great,” McCarthy said. “He really does, just seeing him move out there. Charles keeps himself in great shape. That’s never a concern of ours as an organization so it’s good to have him out there. He brings experience to our football team.”
Woodson was present for the first day of a three-day minicamp Tuesday, and spent much of Tuesday’s practice lining up across from slot receivers—a familiar position for the Packers’ defensive playmaker. But Woodson has played multiple positions in Dom Capers’ defense, including some safety.
“I’ve played a great deal of safety already since I’ve been here,” Woodson said. “And whether or not I play some this year, I don’t think it will be any different from what I’ve done in the past. The main objective is to win games and win the Super Bowl, and that’s really all I’m focused on.”
Capers said any tweaks the team makes to Woodson’s role won’t be particularly obvious.
“Charles has been one of those guys since I’ve been here that week to week, his role changes,” Capers said. “I don’t think it’ll change a whole lot. There’s a lot of talk about safety and that type of thing. Well, we played an awful lot of ‘Corner Okie’—and all Corner Okie is is him going in and playing safety.”
One thing Woodson didn’t do Tuesday was line up as a cornerback across from outside receivers in the Packers’ base defense.
Woodson said that wasn’t particularly significant, simply a sign that he’s gradually working his way back onto the field after sitting out recent organized team activity sessions.
“I haven’t been out there with the team doing football things, so the easiest thing for me to do today was to get in at nickel and play some dime and take those reps,” Woodson said. “As we move along, of course I’ll do more. But right now we’re just piecing it together. You don’t want to go out there and pull something or strain something, so I’m kind of easing into it.”
If Woodson isn’t the full-time answer to replacing Collins at safety, it’s still not clear who is.
Morgan Burnett and Charlie Peprah were spectators in Tuesday’s practice—Peprah is recovering from a knee injury and Burnett tweaked his quadriceps—so Packers coaches spent the sessions taking a look at a few other options at safety. That group includes rookie Jerron McMillian and M.D. Jennings, who played in seven games for Green Bay last year.
Woodson acknowledged that replacing Collins—who was released amid concerns that he won’t be able to safely return from his significant neck injury last season—will be tough.
“Nick was one of that guys that’s really irreplaceable in what he was able to do for this defense,” Woodson said. “From a friend standpoint, it hurts even more because we were friends first. As far as a football aspect, he was a guy that could change the game.
“If you look across the league at safeties, he’s easily in the top three in the entire NFL. To lose a playmaker, a guy with great speed, a guy that’s physical and knew the game of football, it hurts a great deal not having him out there on the field and helping us on Sundays.”