The Green Bay Packers will be without Charles Woodson for the eighth consecutive game this Sunday when they host the Tennessee Titans.
Moments after ruling the veteran defensive back out, however, both sides expressed a certain level of optimism Woodson could be nearing a return rather than remaining one of the team's seven weekly inactives.
Still yet to be cleared from the broken collarbone injury he suffered in October, Woodson continued to take scout team snaps this week with a dash of light first-team drills, but was still ruled out for Sunday with four others.
The team hoped to have Woodson back for last Sunday’s game against Chicago, but team physician Patrick McKenzie has been hesitant to clear the 15th-year veteran for contact in his recent evaluations of the collarbone, the same one he broke during Super Bowl XLV.
After missing two months because of the injury, both the Packers and Woodson spoke on Friday about a potential return in time for the Packers’ regular-season finale against Minnesota on Dec. 30.
“I think Wood, he’s obviously been moving around and doing some things in practice the last couple of weeks,” Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. “I think it’s kind of a natural progression. All the movement stuff he’s done. It just comes down now to the physical part of things and being able to take a blow on it. But I think it’s a smart thing to do, hopefully we’ll see if we can get him out there next week and get a good week of practice under his belt.”
Said Woodson: “Just to play. I don’t think there’s any ideal situation. Just want to get in a game. It’s been way too long, watching too much football from the sidelines. Even though they’re great seats, I’d rather be playing.”
Along with his own situation, Woodson also indicated the Packers could be better off not getting a first-round bye like they did last season. Currently ½ game behind San Francisco for the No. 2 seed, the Packers have won six of their last seven games.
“The way the team has been playing, I don’t know if I’d really prefer a bye week,” Woodson said. “Last year, we were a different team. I think this year’s team is mentally tougher than last year’s team for whatever reason. That being said, the way we've been playing and the way we've been winning games, we have a couple games left to get ourselves ready. I don’t really feel like having a week off helps us. We have some guys going through some injuries or whatever who'll be able to get back. As far as the team itself, we're playing well, why stop?”
With the rapid development of rookie Casey Hayward, along with the efforts of safeties M.D. Jennings and Jerron McMillian, there’s also some question about where Woodson fits into the defense once he does return.
Prior to the injury, he’d been playing the safety role in the base 3-4 defense before moving to the slot cornerback in the sub-packages where Hayward is currently thriving.
Whatever the circumstance, Woodson plans on remaining a Packer. Both this year and next.
“Absolutely,” said the 36-year-old Woodson when asked if he plans on playing next season. “I haven’t had that conversation (if that will be in Green Bay). If that conversation comes around, it comes around, but as far as I know is anything that I expect is that I’ll be a Green Bay Packer and that’s all I have to say about that.”