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Packer Woodson is finest defender

Packer Woodson is finest defender

Posted: Wednesday, January 13, 2010 5:13 pm
By: By CHRIS JENKINS, AP Sports Writer

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Charles Woodson does it all for the Green Bay Packers defense — and does it all well.
From cover cornerback to ball-hawking safety to blitzing pass rusher, Woodson’s combination of versatility and productivity made him The Associated Press 2009 NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
Woodson appreciates the award and considers it a reflection of the way he and his teammates came together this season.
Still, it reminds him of the one major achievement missing from his football resume: a Super Bowl victory.
“That’s it,” Woodson said. “Especially now, to get this award, I’ve done everything an in-dividual can do.”
And at 33, Woodson plans to ke-ep playing as long as it takes to win a world title.
“I’m just going to keep taking shots until I get back to the Super Bowl — and win it,” Woodson said.
Woodson tied for the league lead with nine interceptions, returning three for touchdowns, and his ability to play a wide variety of roles was a critical component of the Packers’ defensive revival under new coordinator Dom Capers.
Woodson got 28 votes Tuesday from a nationwide panel of 50 sports writers and broadcasters who cover the NFL, doubling the number of votes for New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis.
Revis established himself as perhaps the league’s premier cornerback in 2009, shutting down several of the league’s top receivers. He had six picks.
“This, in my opinion, was the best year a corner has ever had, the most impact a corner has ever had in the National Football League,” Jets coach Rex Ryan said.
“That’s my opinion. Apparently, that wasn’t how everybody felt.”
Denver linebacker Elvis Dumervil, who led the league in sacks, and New Orleans safety Darren Sharper, who tied with Woodson for the interceptions lead and also ran back three for scores, each got three votes. Minnesota end Jared Allen received the other two votes.
That makes Woodson the first Green Bay player to win it since Reggie White in 1998, and just the second Packer in the 36-year history of the award. Woodson, the 1997 Heisman Trophy winner, is the first cornerback chosen top defensive player since Deion Sanders in 1994.
“It’s a great honor,” Woodson said. “I felt like I put a lot into the game, mentally and physically — your body’s always beat up — and it’s great to be recognized.”
With the Packers making a drive to the playoffs, Woodson played with a painful shoulder injury in the final weeks of the season. Woodson hopes his shoulder will heal so he can avoid surgery in the offseason.
“It was tough to get through,” Woodson said. “I took some shots on it, and it hurt.”
But the way the Packers exited the playoffs might have hurt more.
Woodson described himself as “just sick” about the Packers’ 51-45 overtime loss at Arizona on Sunday.
And while the Packers will likely be considered contenders heading into next season, Woodson knows nothing is guaranteed; after Woodson lost a Super Bowl with Oakland, the Raiders went 4-12 the following season.
Beyond that, several key Packers players are scheduled to become free agents.
“It’ll be interesting to see which way things go,” Woodson said. “But if we went into next season with the same group, guys having a year in this defense under their belt, I feel like we’ll be pretty good.”
After struggling in 2008, Green Bay’s defense improved in Capers’ 3-4 scheme, ranking second in overall defense, first in interceptions (30), takeaways (40) and turnover margin (plus-24).
Woodson had 63 unassisted tackles and 18 assists, according to the Packers, plus 21 passes defensed, four forced fumbles and one recovery, two sacks for 18 yards and three quarterback hits.
“I’ve said it before, he’s had two or three games that I can’t imagine any defensive player in the league having better games,” said Capers, who also coached Rod Woodson (1993) and Jason Taylor (2006) when they won the award. “I think it speaks volumes when he was player of the month in September and came back and got player of the month again (in November).”
Capers used Woodson in a variety of roles designed to confuse opposing offenses, from man-to-man and zone coverage to rushing the quarterback.
“That’s the best part of it,” Woodson said. “It’s kind of like when I was a kid — I played everything.”
Woodson also made his mark off the field in 2009, announcing before the Packers’ Thanksgiving Day game in Detroit that he was donating $2 million to the University of Michigan Mott Children’s Hospital and Women’s Hospital.
“I’ve done pretty well, to where I can make that happen,” Woodson said. “If it feels right, you just go for it.”


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