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Notebook: Capers, Woodson Honored


Cornerback Charles Woodson has credited defensive coordinator Dom Capers for using him in a way that allowed his skills to shine in the Packers' 3-4 defense, and on Wednesday both men were honored for their achievements this season by Sporting News.

Capers, who just finished his first season as the Packers' defensive coordinator, was named coordinator of the year by the publication in a vote conducted by 53 current NFL head coaches and league executives.

"It means a lot just because of coming in and starting from scratch and putting a new defense in," Capers said. "I think it is a reflection on No. 1, our players, and really the job that they did in terms of picking up the defense and going through some bumps in the road through the course of the season, and then I think showing significant improvement through the regular season, the second half of the season.

"And our coaching staff. I think we have one of the really good coaching staffs that I have been on in terms of everybody being on the same page and pulling in the same direction and are very competent teachers. I feel very, very good about our staff."

Under Capers' tutelage, Green Bay's defense went from No. 20 in 2008 to No. 2 in the NFL in 2009, the Packers' highest ranking since 1996 (No. 1).

Green Bay also led the league in rushing defense (a team-record 83.3 yards per game) for the first time in franchise history after ranking No. 26 against the run in 2008. That 25-spot jump in run defense is the largest in team history.

"I felt like if guys bought into what we were doing and could see progress, that's kind of the process you go through and it's a step-by-step process," Capers said. "I thought our guys really did a good job. There was a good feeling in our room I think in terms of the confidence level and that type of thing. I think that improved tremendously through the course of the season."

Capers (14 votes) edged Cincinnati defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer (13) for the honor. New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams (nine) was third in the voting. In 1999, Capers was named NFL Assistant Coach of the Year by Pro Football Weekly/PFW and USA Today, his first season as defensive coordinator with Jacksonville. He also won every major Coach of the Year award in 1996 when he was the head coach of the Carolina Panthers.

Woodson was selected by Sporting News as the NFL defensive player of the year and was also named to the publication's first-team All-Pro team.

Woodson, who was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year by The Associated Press on Tuesday, was selected by a panel of 636 players, coaches and executives. He received 241 first-place votes from the 583 players polled. Saints safety Darren Sharper was second with 113.

Woodson tied for the NFL lead this season with a career-high nine interceptions, including a career-best three interception returns for touchdowns, which also tied for the league lead. He also led the team with four forced fumbles and added two sacks, which was tied for second among NFL defensive backs. Woodson led the secondary with a career-high 81 tackles and was second on the team with 21 passes defensed.

The honors from Sporting News are among several Woodson has already received for this season. He was selected to his second straight Pro Bowl, the sixth of his career, earned first-team All-Pro recognition from Sports Illustrated, and was voted as the league's top defensive back by NFL Alumni.

No. 23 it is

With the Packers' season ending on Sunday in Arizona, they now know where they will be slotted in the first round of this year's draft.

The four teams that lose in the Wild Card round get the No. 21-24 picks, with the Bengals (10-6) at No. 21, the Patriots (10-6) at No. 22, the Packers (11-5) at No. 23, and the Eagles (11-5) at No. 24. Green Bay will select ahead of Philadelphia because the Packers had a weaker strength of schedule than the Eagles this season.

The last time the Packers had the No. 23 overall pick was in 1976 when they selected tackle Mark Koncar.

{sportsad300}This year's draft is switching to a three-day format this year as opposed to the two-day setup used in the past. The first round will be held on Thursday, April 22, beginning at 6:30 p.m. (CT), with the second and third rounds on Friday, April 23, starting at 5:30 p.m. (CT). The final four rounds will be conducted on Saturday, April 24, beginning at 9 a.m. (CT).

Injury updates

Head Coach Mike McCarthy said there currently aren't any players on the roster that are scheduled to have offseason surgeries.

"I had an opportunity to meet with Dr. Pat McKenzie today," McCarthy said. "We've had a number of players over the last 48 hours and we'll continue this week with scans and so forth. But we do not have any surgeries set for the offseason.

"There's a couple guys, there will be some discussion. But relatively, coming out of the game, we feel pretty good the way we came out of the game."

Linebacker Jeremy Thompson, who was sidelined for the latter part of the season due to a sprained neck sustained in a Dec. 4 practice, is continuing to seek medical advice on his injury, according to McCarthy.

McCarthy said center Jason Spitz, who underwent back surgery on Nov. 11 and missed the final 10 games, is making progress.

"He's definitely turned the corner," McCarthy said. "If you talk to Jason, he's here working out, and he's not all the way back, but he's getting close. We're definitely hopeful. He's played good football for us in the past, and I look for him to that.

"Once again, he's not fully cleared and he's not ready to go, but we definitely feel very strong about he'll be able to be fully recovered from his injury."

Linebacker Aaron Kampman, who sustained a season-ending knee injury in Week 11 and had surgery on Dec. 4, is ahead of his schedule on his rehab. Kampman will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason.

"I had a long talk with Aaron yesterday as far as how his season went and his future," McCarthy said. "That's what we're doing, we're going through all of the information, continue to gather it and so forth. We'll watch his rehab, which will be a big part of it.

"He is off the charts as far as where he is at in his rehab. It's pretty remarkable how he has responded in coming back from his surgery so fast. Those are all the things that we'll look at."

Defensive end Justin Harrell, who missed the entire season due to a back injury, is making progress as well, according to McCarthy.

"He is going to be here full-time," McCarthy said. "I met with him yesterday. He is close. He is getting close to being fully recovered. It's just like any time you come back from a back injury.

"There are definitely come targets that he is going to have to hit throughout the offseason, but he is doing very well in the weight room and the rehab part of it. But he is going to be here full-time."

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