Woodson Finds No Shortage of Motivation

Being a leader and one of the team's playoff captains is nice, but Charles Woodson wants to be much more than that in these playoffs. Returning from a nine-game layoff, Woodson helped a defensive turnaround that kept Adrian Peterson in check.

Charles Woodson is hungry.

And that may be bad news for the San Francisco 49ers and whatever teams could await beyond next weekend in this year's playoffs.

Woodson is hungry after a nine-game absence from a broken collarbone.

He's hungry after reading he's washed up.

He's hungry to settle some unfinished business from the Super Bowl two years ago.

Woodson, one of the team's two defensive captains, wants to show he's more than just the defense's emotional heart beat. He wants to show that, at age 36 and with the team going 7-2 in his absence, that he remains a marquee player one of the league's marquee teams.

"Locker room leader is great, it's a great title to have, but that ain't who I am," Woodson said after contributing six tackles in a 24-10 thumping of the Vikings in Saturday night's wild-card game. "I'm a football player. I want guys to feel me on the field between the lines. For guys to speak of me in that way, man, I'll tell you, it's very humbling. But I'm a football player and I need to be out there."

Before the game, Woodson admitted he was a little scared about his first live contact since the injury. After the game, Woodson walked to the Packers' tunnel in the southeast corner of the stadium. With arms outstretched, he yelled to the fans and basked in their adulation.

"That was pent-up (emotion)," Woodson said. "Let me tell you something, man: That's the hardest thing for a guy like myself is to sit on the sideline and watch your team play. Win or lose, it's hard to watch. I've read a lot of things about me these last couple weeks about what I can't do anymore and those sort of things. I felt like I couldn't defend myself. To be able to get out on the field and remind people of what it is I do on Sundays, Saturdays or whatever, that felt good."

To be sure, the Vikings' change at quarterback helped the Packers' defense, with Joe Webb offering almost no passing threat. But it's impossible to ignore Woodson's impact on the game. Six days earlier, Adrian Peterson rushed for 199 yards as the Vikings earned a 37-34 victory that sent them to the playoffs and deprived the Packers of a coveted first-round bye. Barely a month ago, Peterson rushed for 210 yards, though the Packers won that game 23-14.

Andy Lyons - Getty Images

With Woodson adding a physical presence, a wealth of experience and a burning desire, the Packers held Peterson to 99 yards – a total inflated by 29 yards on two attempts on a fourth-quarter drive with the game's outcome no longer in doubt. Wherever Peterson turned, he saw a green jersey. Frequently, it was No. 21, who spent most of the game at safety but played a linebacker-type role in the Packers' dime package.

"I love it, I love it. It's everybody. Everybody today," Woodson said. "When we go back and watch this film, we're going to see a lot of guys flying around and making plays. There's one play that Erik Walden made on the edge when he tackled A.P. -- last week, we didn't make those tackles. Today, you felt that energy out there. It was evident. We had a lot of guys make a lot of good plays. It feels good when everybody's involved."

Woodson's resume is practically beyond compare. He's almost certainly headed for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. And yet, he was bothered by stories that his time in Green Bay was winding down, whether it's because of age, salary or the young players who had served the defense so well in his absence.

"It's upsetting a little bit because I feel like, especially people who are here locally that have watched me play for the last seven, eight years know what I bring to the table," Woodson said. "They're trying to push me out the door is what it seems like. When you're not playing, I think you're a little more sensitive because you can't defend yourself out there on the field. You can't play, you can't show people what you do. I think people are more willing to talk about what they say I can't do rather than talk about what it is that I do. I don't like it."

That just adds another layer to what pushed Woodson through his comeback and is pushing him for as long as this season lasts. In 2010, the Packers won the Super Bowl but Woodson watched the second half from the sideline with a broken collarbone. Woodson wants another crack at the Super Bowl. He called this an "ascending" team.

"The Super Bowl is always the ultimate goal," he said. "For everybody on this team, that's what we're shooting for and that's motivation enough. We feel like we have a really good team but we want to be considered a great team, so we want to keep on fighting."

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.

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