Woodson swaps pain for picks

The veteran cornerback is tied for the NFL lead in interceptions despite not practicing since Week 1.

Imagine what Charles Woodson could do if he practiced every day.

Woodson hasn't practiced in six weeks. Still, he's tied for the NFL lead with four interceptions with teammate Nick Collins and the Tennessee Titans' Cortland Finnegan and Michael Griffin.

Good news for the Packers — and bad news for opposing quarterbacks — is Woodson says the broken toe sustained during a Week 1 victory over Minnesota is "not even an issue anymore." This bye week should only improve its condition.

"Remarkably, it was able to heal during the time I played," Woodson said on Tuesday before heading home to Atlanta to spend his time off. "The last X-rays that I took showed new bone growth. I've been able to play the last couple weeks. This past Sunday, I didn't even tape it up. I still cut a hole in the side of my shoe just to give it some room, but other than that, I'm out there playing pretty much mostly pain-free."

Woodson's play is remarkable given his lack of practice time — he's only watched from the practice field a couple of times since sustaining the injury. Woodson made up for the lack of on-field reps with extra film study. Being an 11-year veteran certainly helps, too.

While he wouldn't rank this as his best season, it certainly has been among the most rewarding.

"I can think of a couple other times (I've played this well), but it's been fun, especially going out there and being able to play the game without practicing," said Woodson, who has 16 interceptions in two-plus seasons in Green Bay after picking off 17 passes in eight seasons in Oakland. "I get a little winded at times because I'm not able to run the way I want to. Hopefully, that will change in the next couple of weeks. But I'm playing well, and not just myself. Especially the last couple of weeks, we as a whole really stepped up to the challenge. I'm just doing my part."

Woodson did his part last week while barely showing up on the stats sheet. He was in on two tackles and broke up one pass, but his impact rang loud and clear through Lambeau Field in the Packers' 34-14 throttling of the high-powered Colts.

When the opposing offense goes with three wide receivers, Woodson generally lines up on whoever is in the slot. With the Colts going with three receivers on practically every snap last week, that meant Woodson went one-on-one with the prolific Reggie Wayne, a Pro Bowler the last two seasons. Wayne managed all of two catches for 24 yards.

"I love our defense, but I'm not really that into just taking one guy for the whole game," Woodson said. "I like to move around a lot. I like to zone up and watch plays. But when you're asked to do something, and it just so happened that Reggie was in the slot for most of the game. It kind of just worked out that way. ... Reggie Wayne is really coming into his own as a receiver. He's at this point Peyton Manning's go-to receiver. So, it was a challenge, and I'm up for any challenge."

Woodson's performance wasn't surprising to Manning.

"Charles, he's still a very active corner. He has that great athletic ability," Manning said in a conference call before the game. "Obviously, the ability to play outside and in the slot says a lot about his versatility. Some guys can't play one or the other or can't flip sides, but he's a guy that can play all over the field and is aggressive. He's a bump-and-run corner that has great trust in his speed and athletic ability."

A two-game winning streak and a 4-3 record entering the bye was a huge boost for the Packers, who had lost three straight to fritter away a 2-0 start. Beating the Colts was especially important, with a make-or-break gauntlet of games coming up, starting with next week's game at undefeated Tennessee.

And who knows. Maybe Woodson will practice in advance of the Titans game.

"I don't think the coach wants me to practice at this point," Woodson joked. "I'll probably go back to a similar schedule that we had last year (when he also was limited by a toe injury) and probably work on Fridays. We'll figure that out when the time comes."


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