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Notebook: Secondary's play provides cushion for Woodson's return

Dec. 16, 2012
 

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Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews sacks Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler in the fourth quarter Sunday at Soldier Field in Chicago. Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette Media

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CHICAGO — Defensive back Charles Woodson suggested his recovery from a broken collarbone could last another week or two in part because the Packers’ secondary has functioned so well without him.

Woodson has missed the last seven games because of the injury. He said he will meet with the team’s medical staff early this week to determine whether he should come back for Sunday’s home game against the Tennessee Titans.

Woodson has been practicing part time for the last two weeks. When asked whether the main concern was breaking his collarbone again, he said: “It’s more so that right now the team is playing well. We felt like they could come down here and get it done whether I played or not, and they did. The consensus is, we’ll make sure when I do come back that it’s going to be 100 percent, and that’s it.”

Woodson suggested he’d prefer returning for at least the final regular-season game, so he wouldn’t go into the postseason with a nine-game layoff.

“I don’t know if I really want to sit, then just come back in the playoffs,” he said. “I’d probably much rather get some game time in, some game speed, get myself dirty a little bit. We’ll see what happens in the next couple weeks.”

There’s a decent chance Woodson will return to a different role than he had before getting injured. He had been playing safety in the 3-4 base personnel and moving up to the slot cornerback in the nickel personnel. But rookie Casey Hayward has played so well in that nickel role in Woodson’s place that the Packers might keep Woodson at safety in the nickel, and only move him up to slot cornerback in the dime (six defensive backs).

Woodson gave no indication what he thought his role would be on his return but spoke highly of Hayward, who leads the Packers in interceptions (five) and passed defended (22).

“He’s gotten his hands on a lot of balls,” Woodson said. “He’s tackled when he’s needed to. Not much else you can say. He’s played great. The guy’s causing turnovers. That’s one thing as a defensive back and a defense you want to have happen, you want guys to get their hands on the ball. Leading the team in interceptions, playing great. Outstanding.”

Though Woodson didn’t play against the Bears on Sunday, he was part of the pre-game run-up when Bears receiver Brandon Marshall mentioned him by name in a press conference in which he expressed his dislike for the Packers. Marshall in effect said the Packers’ secondary was soft and deserved no credit for holding him to two catches in the teams’ first meeting because they double covered him regularly.

“He’s corny,” Woodson said of Marshall. “We heard all that stuff, but we kind of just brush it off and not even worry about it. NFC North champions, that’s what we worry about.

Marshall also called out Woodson for the latter’s on-field, post-game comment on national television after the first meeting. Woodson after that game said the Packers weren’t concerned about the Bears’ size advantage at receiver because quarterback Jay Cutler would throw interceptions.

“I don’t really appreciate the man speaking my name,” Woodson said. “I don’t know Brandon. But we’re NFC North champions. That’s all I care about.”

Matthews' return

The Packers had planned to limit outside linebacker Clay Matthews’ snap count in his return after missing four games because a pulled hamstring, and they did, to some degree.

“But I think they wanted (to do it) a little bit more, but I wouldn’t let them,” Matthews said.

Matthews had two sacks. Both came on stunts in which he looped inside and was unblocked. Matthews increased his season sack total to a team-high 11, half of which have come in the two games against the Bears. He had 3½ sacks in the season’s first meeting at Lambeau Field in Week 2.

“You could tell with how they were blocking in the game and some of the defenses we were calling that we could take advantage of some matchups,” Matthews said. “So we ran some other (stunts) out there, some one on ones, but ultimately I have a pretty good change of direction and quickness.”

There could be some benefits to Matthews’ layoff late in the season. He said he felt more fresh than he ordinarily would be late in the season, which could bode well for the playoffs.

Still, the Packers may have to continue to limit Matthews’ playing time to avoid a recurrence of the injury that has dogged him most of his career.

“I didn’t feel like I was getting too fatigued, so I was going to continue to be out there,” Matthews said. “Perhaps longer drives, plays where I’m running a little more, I may have to take a few plays off to keep the body fresh,”

Botched fake

Backup receiver Jeremy Ross was so eager to pull off the trick play punt return that he forgot to secure the ball.

Ross dropped a lateral from Randall Cobb, and the Bears recovered it at the Packers’ 16-yard line with 7:54 left in the game.

“It was a focus thing,” Ross said. “I was ready to catch the ball and go, and I saw (Chicago’s Eric Weems) running toward me, so I’m like I’ve got to get this ball and go.”

It was a risky call, considering the Packers held only an 11-point lead at the time.

“Obviously from the way it turned out, it’s a risky play,” Cobb said. “But the coaches believed it was a good call at that moment, so we’ve got to go out there and make that play.”

McCarthy said one of the reasons he called the play was that on the previous series Aaron Rodgers had limped off the field, so the chance for a big play on special teams could have given his quarterback more time to recover.

“I felt the potential for the big play on special teams was there,” McCarthy said. “It’s a play we’ve been working on. You look for a certain part of the field, the wind, all the factors involved, and that’s what it equated to. Now, in the end, it’s not a good decision. Wish I had that back.”

Injury report

Rodgers injured his ankle when Bears defensive end Corey Wootton fell on his right leg at the end of a 5-yard scramble on third-and-6 in the third quarter.

Rodgers appeared to be favoring his right leg but stayed in the game.

“I’m OK,” Rodgers said. “I just kind of got my ankle fallen on on that third down. Got hit a couple of times, but overall the protection was really good.”

The only injury the Packers announced was to Tom Crabtree with a hamstring.

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