Green Bay Packers: Players Deem Cornerback Charles Woodson New Team Leader

Ryan CookFeatured ColumnistJanuary 29, 2011

There is nothing the Green Bay Packers may have wanted more than a giant eraser during the 2008 regular season. 

Extinguishing ex-quarterback Brett Favre's hoodoo has been a major challenge for Aaron Rodgers, but with limited experience to his name, taking over one of the league's biggest franchises was a daunting task.

I guess it could be said that Rodgers originally had the short end of the stick.  Favre was lucky enough to stroll in behind starting quarterback Don Majkowski in 1992, to then rally for a Super Bowl victory in 1997 against the New England Patriots.

That isn't to say Rodgers can't pull of the very same in eight days' time.

Next Sunday, Cowboys Stadium will be jam packed with over 111,000 screaming fans (including standing room attendance).  Owner Jerry Jones has been expecting this remarkable moment since the grounds' opening in 2009, yet the entire Dallas Cowboys organization could not have asked for a better match up to host.

In the thick of things, though, is a matter of NFL history.  Pittsburgh are of course six-time Super Bowl champions, while the Packers pride themselves on the glory days of Bart Starr, Curly Lambeau and the man with the golden hat, Vince Lombardi.

Then there's another man who has added his own touch of brilliance to Dallas' events.  His name is Charles Woodson.

For as long as Favre has been gone, the Packers have been searching for a true team leader in the locker room.  While Rodgers has the motivation strong enough to verbally inspire a team, his experience often runs dry, unlike a local beer tap in the heart of Green Bay.

Then there are the other names that have tried their hand at some team guidance.  Linebacker A.J. Hawk has become a pivotal veteran of the team after five solid years on defense.

Safety Nick Collins is also known for a few annual pep talks.  And who could leave out wide receiver Donald Driver, someone who is never short of some quirkiness.

But as far as leadership qualities go, none of these three players have anything on Woodson.

During the week following the Packers NFC Championship win over the Chicago Bears, Woodson prepared for a rare post-game celebration in the Green Bay locker room.

Woodson started off by crediting the team, but interrupted himself mid-sentence to break into chant regarding President Barack Obama, who told fans he would attend the Super Bowl should the Bears make it to Dallas.

That didn't happen.  Instead, Woodson sent Obama a formal invite himself.

"And check this," Woodson said uncharacteristically. "If the President don't want to come watch us in the Super Bowl, guess what? We'll go see him!"

This was then followed by a cry of "1, 2, 3, White House!"

So what was the outcome of Woodson's outburst?

An autographed jersey sent to Obama himself, that created quite a humorous stir throughout the Packers training facility, simply saying "See you at the White House.  Go Packers."

But why did Woodson choose to undergo such an irrelevant act two weeks prior to Super Bowl XLV?

Simply put, Green Bay has been in search of a team leader.  Now the chosen one has stood up.

Whether being the face of the Packer franchise has been in Woodson's blood all along is questionable.  Fellow cornerback Tramon Williams expressed his fondness of the leadership move, but at times Woodson has been quiet following victories.

Nonetheless, no one in Green Bay is complaining.

The area that has sold most folks on the Woodson front is the respect that he commands.  Having spent 13 seasons in the league, Woodson's statistics don't lie, especially with 47 interceptions to his name.

Most importantly, Woodson has also been through the highs and lows.  Many of the more depressing memories come from his time with the Oakland Raiders, however, Woodson has also experienced the best of both worlds as a Packer.

The negative moments in Green Bay can be highlighted by searching thoroughly.  The one that stands out the most, though, is the Packers 2007 NFC Championship Game against the New York Giants, that saw Eli Manning burn Green Bay's defense for 251 yards.

That is a moment worth forgetting for Woodson.

As for the positives, there are many worth fondly reminiscing.  Perhaps the most significant is Woodson's 2009 NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award, that saw nine interceptions, four forced fumbles and three touchdowns from No. 21.

2010 hasn't been quite so bright unfortunately.

Still, Green Bay remain happy with the team's latest leadership selection.  Experts are now depicting this latest change as a monumental step in Woodson's career, especially with it winding down in terms of age.

When asked on the topic, Rodgers showed no hesitation to complement Woodson's respect.

"Anytime he speaks, I think he's starting to realize he has a lot of respect in the locker room and guys listen to him, they appreciate what he has to say," Rodgers stated. "And he's pretty good at it, too."

Simultaneously, injured linebacker Frank Zombo entertained the same thoughts.

"When he goes to speak, he's got everybody's attention," Zombo told reporters. "And you know that's coming straight from the heart. That's just a guy who's been through it all, everyone has a lot of respect for. When he talks, everyone stops and listens."

The pure beauty of Woodson's regime isn't an "in your face" attitude.  Other teams may relish in the benefits of having an outspoken player like Ray Lewis, but for the Packers, Woodson's humble nature is appreciated by both young and old on the roster.

Next Sunday, Woodson's 13 years in the league all come down to one game.  Rodgers himself said how important Super Bowl XLV is for the older guys on the team following last week's win in Chicago, and aside from Driver, Greg Jennings and many others, Woodson is that the very top of the list.

Woodson went to his first Super Bowl with the Raiders in 2003.  Oakland lost 48-21 in blowout fashion against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Leadership and respect, Woodson compliments all that is right in the Packers strong-standing organization.


Follow Ryan Cook on   Twitter.

Ryan Cook is an Australian author for Acme Packing Company, and a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He is also a guest writer on PackerChatters, and a contributing writer to Detroit Lions Talk, Gack Sports and Sports Haze.


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