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Award Continues Woodson's Green Bay Journey

Charles Woodson has told the story many, many times. "It was truly a blessing coming to Green Bay," Woodson said. That blessing continued on Tuesday for the veteran cornerback when he was named The Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year in a vote of national media. - More Woodson Press Conference Transcript


Charles Woodson has told the story many, many times.

About how he never wanted to come to Green Bay in the first place as a free agent back in 2006.

About how he clashed initially with Head Coach Mike McCarthy over the offseason and practice structures, because he was uneasy and discontented he had received no other contract offers except from the Packers.

But now, four years later, he couldn't imagine having gone anywhere else. As the biggest star on the Packers' defense, he's been embraced and respected by the organization, community and fan base.

He loves playing football here, his relationship with McCarthy has grown exponentially, his recent marriage and birth of a son have grounded his priorities, and his 12-year career remains on a sharp upswing.

"It was truly a blessing coming to Green Bay," Woodson said.

That blessing continued on Tuesday for the veteran cornerback when he was named The Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year in a vote of national media.

It's the first award of its kind for Woodson, who earned his second straight and sixth career Pro Bowl bid this season and was named NFC Defensive Player of the Month in three of the four regular-season months.

"It ranks up there pretty high," Woodson said. "For football, this is the highest level. To receive this award amongst all the players that are in this league that were possible candidates for it, it means a lot. It's a big-time award."

Perhaps as big as the Heisman Trophy, which Woodson won at the University of Michigan in 1997 with the help of his game-breaking punt return duties and some occasional work at wide receiver. Short of winning the NFL MVP award, which has gone to a defensive player just twice in five decades, this is as good as it gets for a defender in professional football.

"At that point in my career, that was the highest level I had been on, so it was obviously a big deal," Woodson said of the Heisman, while wearing his alma mater's sweatshirt during his press conference Tuesday afternoon. "But this is the NFL. The only thing I could say greater than this would be the Super Bowl, so this is a great honor."

Woodson is the first cornerback to win Defensive Player of the Year since 1994, when Deion Sanders won it, and he's the first Packers player so honored since the late Reggie White in 1998. The award was first instituted in 1971.

Woodson received 28 of a possible 50 votes from a panel of media members. New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis was second with 14 votes.

Playing an all-everything defender in defensive coordinator Dom Capers' new 3-4 scheme, Woodson made an impact all over the field this past season. He relished the opportunity to be the team's secret weapon of sorts, able to be employed in almost any fashion in any defensive package.

"He used me in a lot of different ways - safety, dime, nickel, on the outside, blitzing, zone concepts, man concepts, whatever," Woodson said of Capers. "He trusted me to do a lot with this team and this defense. I think all of that, with him coming in and this defense coming in brought a lot of recognition to the team, and I think that's part of the reason why I'm standing here now."

His nine interceptions and three interception returns for touchdowns both tied for the NFL lead and were career highs, and his 179 interception return yards were also a career high and ranked third in the league.

He led the Packers and matched his career high with four forced fumbles, adding another one in last Sunday's playoff loss to Arizona, which ranked tied for second in the league among defensive backs. He also tied for second among defensive backs with two sacks.

His 81 tackles (61 solo) were a career-high and led the Green Bay secondary, and his four double-digit tackle games were a new career best. He also finished second on the team with 21 passes defensed.

He won the NFC Defensive Player of the Month award in September, November and December, becoming the only player to win that award multiple times in a season. He also joined Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders and former Indianapolis kicker Mike Vanderjagt as the only players ever to win a player of the month award three times in one season.

Woodson's all-around impact was best displayed in the month of November, in victories over Dallas and Detroit that were part of Green Bay's five-game winning streak that propelled the Packers into playoff contention.

Against the Cowboys on Nov. 15, he led the team with 10 tackles and had a hand in all three takeaways by the defense. He stripped receiver Roy Williams after a 42-yard reception, he sacked quarterback Tony Romo and forced a fumble, and he picked off a Romo pass intended for tight end Jason Witten at the goal line in the fourth quarter of the 17-7 triumph.

That effort became the first by an NFL player to include two forced fumbles, an interception and a sack in a game since Steelers linebacker James Harrison accomplished the feat two years ago to the day vs. Baltimore on Nov. 15, 2007. In that contest, Harrison posted three forced fumbles, 3½ sacks and an interception.

Two weeks later, Woodson followed that up with another monster game on Thanksgiving Day. Against the Lions, he intercepted two passes, returning one for a score, while also posting a sack, forced fumble and fumble recovery and limiting Detroit's No. 1 receiver, Calvin Johnson, to just two catches for 10 yards.

In that game, Woodson became the first NFL player since sacks became an official league statistic in 1982 to record a sack, two interceptions, an INT return for a touchdown and a fumble recovery in the same game.

At 33 years old, Woodson becomes the third-oldest player to win Defensive Player of the Year, behind White (1998) and defensive end Bruce Smith (1996). He's the oldest defensive back to ever win it, as Rod Woodson previously held that distinction (28 years old, 1993).

{sportsad300}Still in search of a Super Bowl championship - he got to the title game but lost with Oakland seven years ago - Woodson has no plans to leave the game anytime soon. There's no reason to, playing at the level he is, and with his ultimate goal still unfulfilled, though he again expressed confidence this Green Bay team is moving in the right direction and could get him there.

"It's of course a bittersweet moment, because I wish we were preparing for a game this weekend," Woodson said. "It didn't quite work out the way we wanted it to.

"I work hard in the offseason to be ready when the season comes around, and I'll continue to work hard coming into the season. As far as how long I'll play, I'm still shooting to get that Super Bowl. Until then, I need to get one of those."

Packers fans certainly won't tire of watching him strive for that. In his four seasons in Green Bay, he already has the franchise record for defensive touchdowns in a career with eight (seven interception returns, one fumble return), a mark he reached with his three interceptions returned for scores in 2009.

Those three interceptions for TDs tied the Green Bay single-season mark, also held by Hall of Famer Herb Adderley (1965) and teammate Nick Collins (2008). The seven interception returns for scores in a career is tied with Adderley for the franchise record.

Where else he might place himself in franchise annals before he's done is anyone's guess. This year he was one interception shy of tying the team record for most in one season (Irv Comp, 10, 1943), and with one more season like this one he'll crack the top five of the franchise's all-time list for interceptions. He's less than 100 interception return yards from the top five in that category as well.

That's a lot of changes to the record books in a handful of years, but a lot has changed in that time with Woodson, too.

"This is a great place to play football, and again, the way they take care of you around here, organization, staff, the community loves its players," Woodson said. "The people here really respect you if you work hard. That's all they ask from you."

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