Woodson Overcomes Obstacles For Pro Bowl Bid

Some factors were clearly working against cornerback Charles Woodson making it to the Pro Bowl this year. For one, there was the toe he fractured in the season opener against Minnesota. Right out of the gate, it was tough to know whether Woodson would be able to play in every game, let alone play at a Pro Bowl level. - More Pro Bowl Honor Part Of Memorable Day For Collins


Some factors were clearly working against cornerback Charles Woodson making it to the Pro Bowl this year.

For one, there was the toe he fractured in the season opener against Minnesota. Right out of the gate, it was tough to know whether Woodson would be able to play in every game, let alone play at a Pro Bowl level.

"The one thing about it is anytime you play with an injury like that, you don't know if it's going to get worse and (create) the possibility of having to miss some really significant time," said Woodson, who hasn't missed a game all year. "But I was blessed with the ability to play, and the toe actually healed during the time I was playing those few weeks."

And then there was the switch to safety three games ago, which came on the heels of the Packers' blowout loss at New Orleans. Woodson made the move for the good of the team, with starting safety Atari Bigby injured, and though it hasn't resulted in any additional victories to keep the Packers in the playoff hunt, he wouldn't have regretted it even if it had dimmed his Pro Bowl chances.

"At that time when I made the switch, this was the furthest thing from my mind," Woodson said. "We had just gotten beat pretty badly down in New Orleans, and my thinking was mainly on trying to make it to the playoffs and trying to do whatever to get to the playoffs to help the team win.

"From the start of the season until now, it's not about the Pro Bowl, it's about trying to win and trying to get a championship, so I never let that part of it cross my mind."

Woodson is certainly grateful, though, to make it back to the Pro Bowl after a prolonged absence. His selection as a starter on the NFC squad on Tuesday marks the fifth Pro Bowl selection of his career but his first since 2001, and his first with Green Bay. In his 11th season, Woodson is the most experienced Packers cornerback to earn a Pro Bowl spot, besting teammate Al Harris, who went in his 10th season in 2007.

Woodson joined the Packers as a free agent in 2006 and has posted half of his career interceptions - 17 of 34 - in 44 games with the Packers. His five this season are tied with four others, including teammates Nick Collins and Tramon Williams, for second in the league.

Upon coming to Green Bay, Woodson had what many considered a Pro Bowl-caliber season in 2006, intercepting a career-high eight passes and returning one for a score despite battling through knee and shoulder injuries to play all 16 games. But he was passed over then, and again last year, when Harris got the nod.

"Of course I thought it would have happened sooner, but it feels good, and I'm glad I'm able to go as a Packer," he said. "The organization, the fans, everyone since I've arrived here has been very positive to me coming here, and I just try to go out every game that we've had and leave it all on the field to let them know that I'm dedicated to this game and dedicated to winning.

"For all the Packer fans and people who thought I should have made it the last two years, this is for everybody, so I'm happy to be going as a Packer."

This year Woodson's game didn't slow down any despite the fractured toe. After not practicing at all prior to the Week 2 contest at Detroit, he took the field and promptly clinched the game in the fourth quarter with interceptions on back-to-back possessions. The first one set up a Green Bay touchdown for a nine-point lead, and he returned the second for a score to extend the advantage. He also returned an interception for a touchdown in Week 4 at Tampa Bay, that one coming early in the fourth quarter to give the Packers the lead at the time.

He credits assistant athletic trainer Bryan Engel with doing whatever was necessary to protect his toe while allowing him to play, whether it was putting a cast on the outside of his shoe or wrapping the injury just so. He also credits Head Coach Mike McCarthy for allowing him to still play while missing so much practice time. Woodson didn't practice at all for several weeks after the injury and still remains limited in most of the team's workouts.

"He said, 'Hey, as long as you can play on Sunday, don't worry about trying to run around on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday. As long as you show us you can play on Sunday, you'll be all right,'" Woodson said.

"That time between games when I didn't have to put any pressure on my foot and just get myself mentally prepared to play helped me out a great deal."

{sportsad300}His five interceptions this year also match his second-highest single-season total, set as a rookie. He has established a new career-high with three sacks (topping his 2 1/2 in 2004), is on pace for a new career-high in tackles with 72 and two games remaining (79 in 2000), and leads the team in passes defensed with 17.

Aside from the tackles, Woodson racked up most of those numbers in the first 11 games of the season before the switch to safety for the last three contests.

"You can say so many great things about the guy," said Collins, his defensive backfield mate who earned his first Pro Bowl selection on Tuesday. "I feel since he has been here he has deserved to go to Hawaii. This year was a great year and he got the opportunity to go. He helped me develop and study to get ready to prepare for a game. It's just great to go with a guy like that."

Woodson went to the Pro Bowl the first four years of his career with Oakland. Joining the Raiders as the reigning Heisman Trophy winner from Michigan and the No. 4 overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft, Woodson intercepted five passes as a rookie, returning one for a touchdown, and was selected to his first Pro Bowl.

He also earned the honor in the succeeding three years before injuries limited him to half a season or less in two of his final four years with the Raiders.

He said his fifth selection feels as good as his first, but not as good as it would if the team were headed to the postseason. After playing in the Super Bowl with Oakland following the 2002 season, Woodson hadn't returned to the playoffs until last year and like all his teammates was hoping to make another playoff run in 2008.

"When you put in a lot of hard work in this game, you wish we were going to the playoffs," he said. "But this is one of those honors that is a little bit of spotlight on different players in the league who went out there every week and just tried to give it everything they had."

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