Monday, October 22, 2012
Sorry, you don't replace Charles Woodson
By Kevin Seifert
Remember when I told you I would be away from the blog for a bit while navigating the Chicagoland rain to Soldier Field? That plan got delayed a bit by the news, first reported by Jay Glazer of Fox Sports, that Green Bay Packers cornerback Charles Woodson will miss six weeks because of a broken left collarbone.
There was no mention of Woodson's injury during or after the Packers' 30-20 victory over the St. Louis Rams on Sunday, although he did not play on the final series, as Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette points out. Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com noted that Woodson grabbed his shoulder and writhed on the ground while defending receiver Brandon Gibson late in the fourth quarter.
Woodson injured his left collarbone, the same one that he injured in Super Bowl XLV. It's not clear if his latest injury is as serious; six weeks is on the low end of a return timetable for a fully fractured collarbone. ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Woodson will miss at least a month.
Regardless, there are a handful of indispensable players on the Packers' roster, and Woodson is one of them.
The Packers have done well to find workable alternatives for injured linebackers Desmond Bishop, D.J. Smith and Nick Perry. The Packers also have managed the losses of nose tackle B.J. Raji, receiver Greg Jennings, running back Cedric Benson and cornerback Sam Shields, much as they did during their run to the Super Bowl in 2010. But even if Woodson is no longer in his playmaking prime at age 36, he is still a unique and valuable rock amid the transition the Packers' defense has undergone this season. It will be impossible to replace the veteran leadership and versatility Woodson has brought.
Woodson might have only one interception and five defensed passes this season, but he has played the fourth-most snaps (95.9 percent) on the defense this season after safety Morgan Burnett, linebacker Clay Matthews and cornerback Tramon Williams. Along the way, he has made the transition to safety in the base defense while working as a slot cornerback in the nickel. That means the Packers will have to replace him with different people in multiple packages. Either M.D. Jennings or Jerron McMillian will take his place at safety, and then the Packers will have to choose between Davon House and Jarrett Bush at cornerback as long as rookie Casey Hayward is filling in for Shields.
Just as important, Woodson has once again joined with quarterback Aaron Rodgers to provide the Packers with locker-room leadership as strong as any team in the NFL.
This sky isn't falling in Green Bay. The Packers have a way of navigating this type of adversity. But this injury will hurt more than most. Charles Woodson sits at the soul of this team, and for the moment it's empty.
Coach Mike McCarthy is scheduled to speak with reporters at 4 p.m. ET. I will check back in when I arrive at Soldier Field.