It's a business, or just business depending on how you look at it. As of February 15th, Charles Woodson is no longer a Packer. And by all means it's likely he never should have been. It might be impossible to accurately summarize his life, as someone who has never met him, and that is funny thing about sports; they somehow lift you up, and make you care about a person you've never met. I'd like to think somewhere in that persons' mind, they care about you too. They don't know your face, your name, where you live, but that person understands how much he or she represents a part of your life.
None of this should surprise anyone who has viewed, read, or at least heard about his accomplishments over the years. Considering he even played football should be a surprise to some. He was born with clubbed feet. Severely clubbed feet... We all know there's the mythos of any person being able to rise above, and become something greater than him or herself. That despite the setbacks, blows to the face, and sometimes marring challenges faced, each of us will overcome. The sad reality is few of us do. Many of us get locked inside ourselves. We fall to our own self pity and loathing. Other times we overestimate our own effort, and praise ourselves on our own lackluster efforts. This was not the case with Woodson. Much like another Packer great, Leroy Butler, he overcame his physical hindrance, and defied those around him. He was named "Mr. Football" of Ohio. Not bad for a guy that, for all intents and purposes, shouldn't have been playing sports.
There are those that still feel Manning was the rightful Heisman candidate that year in 1997. After all, he decided to stay one more year at Tennessee to finish his degree. He was a high character athlete. One, who knew the opportunity he'd been given. Despite coming from a pedigree, he was going to do the right thing and complete it, unlike so many others. As fans, we're all very high on our draft picks, but we forget why some athletes attend college in the first place. They want an education. We can all question the personal commitments to education of those who played at Miami in the 1980s, but what is the point? For many of those players, they got an education they would otherwise not have an opportunity to get. For some, it was the launch of an NFL career.
He decided on the later. He renounced his final season of eligibility.
Al Davis was known for his high profile investments in players. In my mind he'd always had a thing for Heisman winners. Plunkett, Howard, Jackson, Allen, Jackson, Cannon, Brown. Forgive me if I'm forgetting someone. The Oakland locker room would have been the perfect place for Woodson. He was flashy, brought a presence, and was a playmaker. Unfortunately nothing really culminated for him in Oakland. Despite being on contending teams, he wasn't able to win a Superbowl. Two things stand out to those of us that know football. Being destroyed by his former coach John Gruden, and the arguably ridiculous employment of the tuck rule against the Patriots. If either had gone his way, Woodson might have stayed in Oakland. I would like to think for an individual, his overturned sack against Tom Brady might mark as a personal low point for him. I'd like to think he'd won that game for his team.
However, he would eventually be released.
Woodson wasn't courted by many teams. He'd recorded 17 interceptions in Oakland, 36 passes defended, and 5.5 sacks during his time there. Not bad, not super.
Obviously we wouldn't be talking about the guy if he hadn't come to Green Bay. In Ted Thompson's second year as GM, he'd signed veteran Ryan Pickett, a former first round pick from the St. Louis Rams, and Charles Woodson. Both were two high profile signings for the new GM. Woodson signed a seven year $52 million dollar contract, that many were right to question. After all, he wasn't considered a team player. Woodson was Woodson. He was a one man show. He was the guy that beat other teams. Not the people around him.
He wanted to play football though. No other team had made him an offer, or at least one he'd consider. The problem was, he'd have to play in Green Bay. I don't think Green Bay has, or will ever, be able to shake the sense it's where you play when we're done with you. Young players like to have fun. The metro area is the smallest in the NFL. It's not New York. It's not L.A. It's not even Boise Idaho, which from what I've read, is actually not that bad. It's Green Bay. Green Bay is settled in the Fox River valley. It's the remnants of a dying industrial industry. The shipping industry is essentially done. Pollution is on its way up, and has been for years. It has Best Buy, McDonald's, Starbucks, Shopko, and all the other big name chain stores. It doesn't have the Smithsonian. It doesn't have the Museum of Science and Industry. It doesn't have the giant Arches. It doesn't have the ten million things L.A. and New York have. Instead it has a storied NFL franchise.
Woodson signed his contract. The problem was, he didn't want to play there. I never would have known he'd been off on the wrong foot with the team if not for watching the Superbowl DVD. There was a great deal of tension with the team during his first few years. McCarthy and he got into a fight during practice. I'd expound on it more than there, but suffice to say things worked out.
He had a mind for football. He studied film religiously. We can speculate his re-dedication to football was either through necessity, or personal choice. It's probably both. Leading up to his 2009 Defensive Play of the Year award, he'd amassed 28 interceptions during his time in Green Bay. More than his career in Oakland by 11, and in less than four seasons, half of those he'd spent in Oakland.
And for someone thought to be an individualist, he eventually became known as a leader.
During 2010 he'd only gained two interceptions in his regular season. It was clear he was declining. He was officially old. But, he'd been vocal about Clay Matthews. Matthews had been in the running for DPOY in 2010, and was locked with the Steelers Troy Polamalu. He'd even talked about how no two players on the same team had won DPOY consecutively. The award however went to Polamalu.
The 2010 season was tumultuous for Packer fans. It ranged from finally winning a game in Philadelphia after over four decades, and beating Brett Favre twice, to some very close games you feel as fans they should have won.
However, none of it mattered. Rematches against the Eagles, Falcons, and Bears, all led to the Superbowl.
Fitting it would be against another storied franchise.
After dominating defensively during most of the first half, Charles Woodson defended a pass against Mike Wallace. It resulted in an incompletetion near the end-zone. I cheered. Hell, what fan wouldn't? Then Woodson was off the field and went to the locker room. Both he, breakout UDFA Shields, and fan legend Driver, all were done in the second half. (Shields did play one play in the second half). Woodson, knowing he wasn't able to finish the game, gave a half time speech. Football had always been a career for Woodson. It was a way to make money. His time in Green Bay had changed that.
We know how that game ended. 31-25. As a fan, a defining moment for me came when I saw the photos of Woodson holding the trophy. The power of that photo of his arm in a cast, still ranks as a personal favorite. Maybe it should be in spite, or because of his arm being in a cast, for it being a reason I like it so much. There is just too much associated with that photo for me. He finally got a ring. He got a ring because he was on a team. Not because of him. It was a team effort. He'd finally become more than himself. He was a Packer. He was all of us.
Rodgers was quoted as saying he went out to win that game for Chuck.
In 2011 Woodson was seen as the seasoned veteran. Smarter than most, but he not the same guy physically. He recorded seven interceptions by the end of the season. Playing smart was his definition by that point.
After the loss to the Giants in 2011 he was quoted as saying the bomb pass "should not have happened".
Yeah it shouldn't have.I feel Woodson deserved better.
His coverage skills had obviously diminished by 2012, and he played a hybrid safety/corner role. Unfortunately we never saw light of what truly might have been.
In 2012 he played five games before breaking his collarbone yet again, against the Colts in week five. He would remain out until the playoffs. His career with Green Bay, as of now, has effectively ended against the 49ers.
Charles Woodson played the definition of rebel: A rugged individualist throughout his time in Oakland, and became a leader, despite his past, in Green Bay. He shouldn't have even played football. He defied expectations, and flaunted them in the face of detractors.
In the 100 Things Packer Fans should know it was said Woodson found something in Green Bay he might not otherwise have: peace, and himself.
I'll miss you Chuck...
I want to encourage all of you on APC, and everyone else, to post your favorite Woodson memories. Not just in Green Bay.
Let's remember the good times!