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Packers cut ties with Charles Woodson

Jacob Westendorf, Sports Writer/Commentary
February 27, 2013
Filed under Sports

Donald Driver’s retirement stirred up a lot of emotion in Packer nation. Less than a week after Driver retired, another icon was dismissed, as the Packers released veteran cornerback Charles Woodson.

In his career at the University of Michigan, Woodson played a multi dimensional role that was unprecedented in the Big Ten.

He finished his collegiate career with a national championship and remains the only defensive player to win the Heisman Trophy. He was then selected fourth overall by the Oakland Raiders in 1998, and their pick was rewarded when Woodson won Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Woodson’s career in Oakland helped him emerge as one of the top cornerbacks in the league.

After the 2005 season, Oakland decided to let him leave when he became a free agent. Woodson reached an agreement to play for the Packers April 27, 2006.

Woodson marked one of the two major free agent signings general manager Ted Thompson made since being put in charge of the Packers personnel. Initially, Woodson didn’t want to come to Green Bay. However, despite his stature in the league, only two teams were vying for him. Woodson was a player with severe character concerns as he exited Oakland. He fell asleep in meetings and didn’t study film the way a professional football player is expected to.

His first season in Green Bay continued that trend, as he got off to a rocky start. Woodson got into an argument with his position coach, and head coach Mike McCarthy dismissed him from practice.

This was a wakeup call for Woodson. He said a light went on in his head, and he began rebuilding his image. After clearing the air with McCarthy, Woodson took off and returned to his old playmaking form. He intercepted eight passes and forced three fumbles,  proving to the rest of the league that he had returned from hiatus.

Woodson emerged as a team leader in 2009 with nine interceptions, three of which he returned for touchdowns paired with four forced fumbles. Woodson won NFL Defensive Player of the Year that season, but ultimately the Packers fell short in the playoffs, leaving Woodson without another Super Bowl ring.

The Packers entered 2010 with lofty aspirations after being stopped short of their goal the previous season. Woodson took an even larger role in the locker room that season. He mentored young cornerbacks Tramon Williams and Sam Shields, and he was voted team captain for the playoff run in the 2010 season.

After a thrilling win over the arch-rival Chicago Bears, Woodson delivered a speech that will forever live in Packer lore. After the Packers punched their ticket to Super Bowl XLV, Woodson instructed the team to play as one.

“Let’s be one mind, one heartbeat with one purpose, one goal for one more game,” Woodson said.

Though Woodson was unable to play the second half of the game due to a broken collarbone sustained late in the first half, he still managed to deliver a token of inspiration, delivering a halftime speech that teammates said afterward gave them one common goal — win the game for Woodson.

The Packers did just that, delivering their fourth Super Bowl championship as a team, and Woodson’s first as an individual.

Despite these memories and leadership characteristics, the Packers decided to move in a different direction Feb. 15. Woodson was released largely due to his $10 million cap number and declining play. His release could give opportunities to younger players like Jerron McMillian and M.D. Jennings. Woodson’s role this past season deteriorated with the emergence of Casey Hayward and promising young prospect Davon House.

Like every player who came before him, Woodson was unable to overcome Father Time, and the Packers ultimately decided to move on.

Woodson finished his career in Green Bay with 38 interceptions and 15 forced fumbles. His impact was felt both on and off the field. Although Woodson will likely play elsewhere next season, he will always be remembered as a Green Bay Packer.