Skip to main content

Woodson Taking Nothing For Granted

As cornerback Charles Woodson enters his 13th season in the NFL still chasing that elusive championship, his perspective is worth listening to.


Having been a member of five playoff teams during his 12 combined years in Oakland and Green Bay, Woodson knows as well as anyone that there are no guarantees in this league.

He was a member of the Raiders' 2002 Super Bowl team that failed to make the playoffs the following season. And he was on the Packers' 2007 team that reached the NFC Championship Game and didn't go to the postseason the next year.

So when Woodson reflects on the 2009 Packers' squad that was as hot as any team in the NFC in the second half of last season -- only to fall agonizingly short in overtime in the Wild Card playoff in Arizona -- and on the foundation that experience can lay for another potential playoff run in 2010, he's not going to believe everything will just magically fall into place.

It's going to take more than that, and he will deliver that message in one way or another as he prepares for the upcoming season.

"We just have to stay hungry," Woodson said following the final mini-camp practice on Tuesday. "I think that's the main thing for us. Yeah, we look good on paper right now. We had a good season last year. But if guys don't stay hungry and take whatever lessons we can take from last year and build on this year, it doesn't mean a thing. So we all have to stay hungry on this team."

Woodson certainly is. With a 5½-week break beginning Wednesday before the start of training camp at the end of July, Woodson isn't about to rest. Granted, he's had more rest through the OTAs, practicing off and on, than many of the players who have been on the field multiple days per week for five of the last six weeks.

But he plans to be "hitting it hard" during the time off to get his body ready for another demanding season. He said he feels better physically at this time than he did last year, when he was about to embark on winning the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year award, but that doesn't mean he's going to ease up at all in his training over the next month.

"I go out there, I work every day, and that will be my example to the rest of the guys," Woodson said. "Yeah, this may be 13 (years) coming up for me, but I'm going to approach it like it's my first, and go out there and try to get a championship. That's the way I approach it."

Woodson changed up his training routine a bit this past offseason, doing some boxing workouts in Florida with teammate Nick Collins earlier in the spring. He said the boxing work, which didn't include any actual sparring, really helped with his shoulders, one of which was ailing a bit toward the end of last season. In this type of shape, at age 34, he feels he could play several more seasons yet.

But his energy for now is directed at the season in front of him, and Woodson has made no secret of his overwhelming desire to win a Super Bowl ring. That would mean more to him than his six Pro Bowl selections, last year's elite award, and his Heisman Trophy from Michigan all put together.

He sees no reason this Green Bay team can't achieve it, and that's perhaps what drives him the most.

Last year he felt he was born to play in defensive coordinator Dom Capers' 3-4 scheme, which moves Woodson around as a cornerback, slot defender, safety or blitzer on any given down. He posted a league-high nine interceptions (including three returned for TDs), two sacks and four forced fumbles as the most dynamic playmaker on the league's most turnover-prolific defense (40 total takeaways).

The defensive struggles in shootout losses to Pittsburgh and Arizona in the playoffs were frustrating, to be sure. But to Woodson they only highlighted the flaws that must be the focus this year as the Packers, No. 2 in the league in total yards allowed and No. 1 against the run a year ago, try to grow from a strong defense into a championship-caliber one.

"You've got to get better," Woodson said, acknowledging it's up to the players to earn Capers' trust to expand the playbook in the second year of his defense.

"If we don't get better then something's wrong. We keep saying we've been in this system for a year now. We've taken our bumps and bruises in this system, learned a lot about the guys that we have in this locker room. We understand where we are as a team and what we have. So this year, it makes no sense for us not to get better."

It's also imperative that the Packers learn from what happened in the playoffs against the Cardinals, when the team, as Head Coach Mike McCarthy has said, "lost its identity." Many of the components that had come together to allow the Packers to make their playoff push a year ago - an offense that protects the ball and a defense that takes it away, stuffs the run and stifles the opposition - abandoned the team when it mattered most.

"We were playing great," Woodson said. "I think we just missed an opportunity down there in Arizona. That's just something we have to build on. We have to think about that game, think about our approach to that game, think about what happened during that game, and then now coming into this season say, 'That can't happen again.'"

What needs to happen again is for the Packers to put themselves in position to take another shot. Woodson has been there before, but just because everything appears to be trending a certain direction doesn't make it so.

To Woodson, understanding that may be the most important lesson of all.

"That's all up to us," he said. "It's up to the guys in the locker room to continue to have that attitude, continue to be hungry, continue to care about winning. As long as we have that, we'll have a chance."

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.