The Green Bay Packers’ plan going into Saturday’s Wild Card showdown with the Minnesota Vikings is to have their best 11 defensive players on the field at one time.
It’s safe to say both rookie cornerback Casey Hayward and 15-year veteran Charles Woodson fall into that category.
While the 36-year-old Woodson’s role remains undefined in the wake of his return from a broken collarbone that’s sidelined him for the past 10 weeks, the Packers don’t have any intention of moving Hayward from his perch as the slot corner in the team’s nickel package.
With Woodson on the mend, the second-round pick out of Vanderbilt turned in a defensive rookie of the year-caliber campaign with 53 tackles, 21 pass deflections and six interceptions.
This week, the Packers lined Woodson back up at safety opposite Morgan Burnett during practice similar to what he was doing in the base 3-4 defense prior to his injury, which occurred Oct. 21 against St. Louis.
Unlike his first seven games of the season, however, it’s likely Woodson will stay there in nickel before moving to slot corner when the defense turns to its dime formation.
“They’re similar in a lot of things that they do, so they’ll both be out there at the same time,” Packers cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt said. “Wood will play safety sometimes, he’ll play dime. He really won’t play as much nickel because we’re comfortable with what Casey has done in that role and he’s comfortable with it. He sees how Casey has played and knows we want to have our best 11 out there at all times.”
Both Whitt and defensive coordinator Dom Capers acknowledged Woodson’s role will be fluid against the Vikings as the team also plans to monitor him and his collarbone, which needed an extra four weeks to heal before finally being cleared by team physician, Dr. Patrick McKenzie, earlier this week.
How Saturday’s game plays out will play a role in deciding whether or not that means limiting his snaps, but Woodson’s experience, play-making tendencies and willingness against the run could be the defensive piece the Packers’ lacked in last Sunday’s 37-34 loss in Minneapolis.
“The guy has played for a long time and played at a very high level,” Capers said. “I think all the guys are excited about having him back. He brings a certain confidence level because he’s made plays in big games. It’s been a while since he’s been in there, but he’s always made two, three plays-a-game that affect the game.”