Friday, February 15, 2013

Building The 53 - Packers release Charles Woodson

New broke this morning via Twitter when the official account for Charles Woodson Wines posted this:
A few hours later, Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson released this statement:
"We are grateful for all that Charles has given to the Green Bay Packers over the past seven years.  He has been an integral part of the Packers’ success and our Super Bowl title in 2010 would not have been possible without his contributions. A once-in-a-generation talent as a player, he is also a great leader and ambassador for the organization off the field. Charles will always be a member of the Packers family and we look forward to his eventual induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. We wish him and his family all the best."

A few weeks ago I advocated for the Packers to keep Woodson in my annual off-season advice for Thompson but deep down I knew that Woodson's $10 million salary in 2013 was untenable, especially since the Packers don't have very much salary cap room for next season and they need to extend at least three franchise players (James Jones, Clay Matthews and B.J. Raji) before the end of next season.  It is really hard to succinctly summarize the career of one of the greatest defensive players in NFL history but I will try, with a focus on his years in Green Bay.

Woodson won the Heisman Trophy in 1997 en route to helping Michigan win a share of the 1997 National Championship with Nebraska.  Woodson was the first predominately defensive player to win the Heisman. I said predominately because it was Woodson's kick return ability that catapulted him over Peyton Manning, Ryan Leaf, and Randy Moss not just his defensive abilities alone.  The Oakland Raiders drafted Woodson with the 4th pick in the 1998 NFL Draft.  Woodson made a splash right away in the NFL winning the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1998.  Woodson went on to play for the Oakland Raiders from 1998 to 2005 but the end of his tenure in Oakland was marred by injury.

Woodson reluctantly signed a huge seven year, $52 million contract with the Green Bay Packers in 2006 to start the most magical seven year defensive run (note that Reggie White played for the Packers for six years from 1993 to 1998) in franchise history.  In Woodson's seven seasons in Green Bay he started 100 regular season games and 10 playoff games.  As a member of the Packers, Woodson was twice named to the AP All-Pro first-team (2009 and 2011) and a four time Pro Bowler (2008-11). Woodson finished his Packer career with 99 pass break-ups, 38 interceptions, and 11.5 sacks.  Woodson only had one interception this season because he missed nine games with a broken collarbone so that means he amassed 37 interceptions over six seasons in Green Bay. Woodson had at least seven interceptions in 2006, 2009, 2009, and 2011 to join Bobby Dillion as the only players to accomplish such a feat in franchise history.

Woodson's turnover numbers are quite impressive but it was his ability to convert those turnovers into touchdowns that sets him apart from other defensive ball hawks.  Woodson had 10 defensive touchdowns (nine INTs and one fumble return) as a member of the Packers, which is the most in franchise history.  When you add in Woodson's defensive touchdown with the Raiders, it puts him only one defensive touchdown behind Rod Woodson for most regular season defensive touchdowns in NFL history.

Woodson's 2009 and 2010 seasons in Green Bay stand out the most to me.  Statistically speaking, Woodson's best season in Green Bay was 2009 when he was named 2009 AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year thanks to amassing 65 tackles, 21 passes defended, nine interceptions, four forced fumbles, and two sacks.  Although Woodson only had two interceptions in 2010, he posted a career high in tackles (76) and forced fumbles (5) to help the Packers win their first Super Bowl since Super Bowl XXXI.

A big part of sports is commiserating with friends and family about it.  Here are two text exchanges that I had earlier today that pretty much sums up my thoughts:
Let me give you a little background on the end of that exchange.  Gaber was quoting me from one of my worst performances at a Packer game.  As I discussed in this space a few times, I've been to almost every Packers/Bears game in Chicago over the last decade.

Things have gone the Packers way for almost all of those games with their 2007 regular season match-up being an outlier.  The 12-2 Packers traveled to play the 5-9 Bears on a brutally cold day.  Fernando, Gaber, Sug, and I started the day early with some Andre champagne (later used by the Milwaukee Brewers to celebrate making the playoffs) and things went downhill from there.

We "snuck" in a number of bottles of Baileys into Soldier Field.  I say "snuck" because I was definitely over-served before we got to the game so I was dropping them left and right as we tried to enter the game.  Luckily, actually probably unluckily, we made it into the game.

The Packers ultimately lost 35-7 in a meaningless game.  Instead of taking the loss graciously, I offended both Bears and Packers fans by continually calling the Bears a horrible organization and listing off how much better the Packers have been over the last few decades.  Although everything I said that day was true, still not my finest hour.

Back to Woodson getting cut by the Packers, here is another text message exchange from later in the day:
This turned into the longest "Quick Thoughts" post ever and probably should have been a Sunday (not so) Funday post but I am going to the Hockey City Classic at Soldier Field on Sunday with Dre, Nick, Sug, and Tessa so I plan on posting my extended thoughts on seeing Wisconsin and Minnesota face-off (great pun huh) as a Sunday Funday post.

Check back soon for more of my thoughts on the business side of the Packers parting ways with Woodson, but I will leave you with this.  Earlier this year Cheesehead Chick, Dre, Gaber, Nick, Sug, Tessa, and I went to the Packers/Vikings playoff game.  I was pretty sure that would be Chuck's last home game in Green Bay and based on this picture, it looks like Chuck knew it too...

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