A healthy Charles Woodson will hit the FieldTurf running this weekend.
When the Packers open their first mini-camp Friday in the Don Hutson Center, Woodson won't be watching from the sideline. The team's medical staff has cleared him for full participation.
"My health is fine and I haven't lost any speed," said Woodson, whose 2005 season ended when a teammate broke his fibula Oct. 23 vs. Buffalo. "I'm completely healed. There was really nothing I could do about that. But as far as my health is concerned now, everything's fine."
An X-ray taken in early January showed new bone growth in the leg. Since, Woodson has been enthusiastically training for the 2006 season, mostly in the Houston area. That training went up another notch once negotiations with the Packers heated up early last week.
"It just kind of all started to make sense," he said. "It all fell into place. My agent and I were just talking back and forth and I said, 'You know what? Now that I'm actually looking at Green Bay, I've got a good feeling about the situation.' I told my agent, 'Hey, I'm serious about this. Let's go ahead and get it done.'"
The Packers were serious about Woodson, too. Along with unrestricted free agents Marquand Manuel and Ryan Pickett, the team views Woodson as an important upgrade on a defense that finished 2005 seventh overall and No. 1 against the pass. Pickett and Aaron Kampman - an unrestricted free agent the Packers re-signed last month - finished first and second in tackles last year among the league's defensive linemen. Manuel played a major role in the Seahawks' run to Super Bowl XL.
And now with Woodson in the fold, Green Bay isn't resting on those lofty defensive rankings.
"Our goal should be to stay No. 1," Woodson said. "We definitely have the assets back there. We've re-signed some guys like Kampman and we had a pretty good draft. With this new, young linebacker coming in from O-State, being able to watch him a little this past year, he's a sideline-to-sideline guy and that's definitely what you need in the defense. If we can take care of our business on the back end, let our guys up front like (Kabeer) Gbaja-Biamila rush the passer, giving them a chance to get to the passer, we should not stray from the No. 1 spot."
That new, young linebacker is first-round draft choice A.J. Hawk from Ohio State. But don't expect Woodson, who led Michigan to the 1997 national championship, to have any personal issues with a player from his school's chief rival.
"We're on the same team," Woodson said, smiling. "There won't be any issues."
There won't be any issues with Woodson's willingness to help the team in any way, either. An old-school player who signed with the Packers in part because he loves playing for teams with great tradition, Woodson fits the Packers' aggressive style perfectly.
"I still like to be in the mix," he said. "I still like to be physical out there. I like to make tackles - the whole thing. A lot of times with corners, they feel like their only role on the field is to cover. But with me, I like to be a part of the whole game, and that's what I think I bring to the team. Guys will see me out there not just covering but being willing to do whatever it takes to win the game."
He's not kidding when he says whatever it takes. He prefers to play corner because that is his natural position, but says there's no set role for him on the field. He'll play anywhere - including special teams - if he can help the team. He has returned punts in the past, and plans on speaking to special teams coordinator Mike Stock about that. And don't be surprised to see him on offense, either.
"Now that's what I'm really excited about," Woodson said. "I've been in Oakland eight years, and probably for my first three years I was on the coach everyday trying to get in on offense. It never happened for whatever reason, and I've just been itching at the chance to get back over there on that side of the ball to help the team win. So I'm definitely excited about that.
"I just feel positive about everything. I'm just growing more and more in love with this move everyday."
That move took a few days to complete, logistically. While the Packers were busy drafting his future teammates, Woodson received the contract in Houston over the weekend, then signed and returned the documents to Green Bay for Monday delivery. That's when General Manager Ted Thompson gave his blessing to the team's public relations department to send out the press release.
Fans first heard about Woodson's pending arrival through the media last Wednesday, but the official announcement came five days later. Media reported something called agreed to terms. The Packers announced a signing.
"It just has to do with the mechanics of actually having certain pieces of paper in hand," Thompson said Sunday. "We have a policy here that we won't actually make an announcement until we have the signed documentation, just because sometimes it can lead to embarrassment."
Those potentially embarrassing situations prevent the Packers from making "agreed to terms" announcements. One, the player could fail his physical after the agent and team reach an agreement. Two, the agent could use the agreement as leverage to take the player away from the Packers and sign with another team for more compensation. Finally, and most importantly, the NFL frowns on "agreed to terms" announcements because the league views the team as telling other clubs they no longer have permission to speak to the player. In some cases, an agreed to terms announcement can violate tampering rules.
In most cases, reporters get their information from agents. Soon after the agent and the team agree in principle to a contract, the agents generally release the news to reporters.
So, before the team's official announcement, fans may read about pending acquisitions in the newspapers or hear about them on national internet sites. However, Packers.com will have more information in the end because its people are in the building and have better access to players, coaches and front-office staff.
And with Woodson in the building this weekend, no doubt, the Packers are eager to begin writing a new chapter; just not as eager as Woodson.