Me: "Tramon, what can you say about Charles Woodson?"
Williams: "What can you say about Charles?
Probably not enough.
Before the game, Woodson donated $2 million to his favorite charity, the new C.S. Mott Children's and Women's Hospital at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. During the game, Woodson's play was priceless, with a sack, forced fumble, fumble recovery and two interceptions – including one that he returned for a touchdown and punctuated with a replay of his Heisman Trophy pose.
With the Packers' defense playing without longtime stalwarts Al Harris and Aaron Kampman, Woodson picked up more than his share of the slack as the Green Bay Packers blew out the Detroit Lions 34-12 here at Ford Field on Thursday.
"Not at all. Not at all," Woodson said when asked if he could have envisioned a better day from start to finish. "It was a big day for this team, especially on Thanksgiving. And then the donation, that is really the icing on it. I'm glad that we could get it done."
Less than two weeks earlier, defensive coordinator Dom Capers said Woodson's three-turnover performance in a must-win game against Dallas was one of the finest individual performances he had seen in his 20 years as an NFL coach. After forcing three more turnovers on Thursday, Capers was blown away again.
"We matched him on Calvin (Johnson) a bunch," Capers said. "He had an incredible day today. Once again, I don't know who is playing better football than Charles Woodson in the National Football League, but he had a huge day today."
In barely three-and-a-half seasons with the Packers, Woodson has intercepted a ridiculous 26 passes. Including his seven this season, Woodson leads the NFL with the most interceptions since the start of the 2006 season. His six touchdown returns on interceptions also leads the NFL.
In eight seasons in Oakland, he had more than four interceptions in a season only once – his rookie year of 1998, when he had five. Since coming to Green Bay, he's had eight interceptions in 2006, "only" four in 2007 and seven in 2008. So, in typical Woodson fashion, he downplayed his achievements, choosing to point out the 1-yard touchdown reception he allowed against Johnson after the Packers coughed up the opening kickoff.
"I feel like there's a few plays I left out there on the field the past few games," Woodson said. "Seven (interceptions) is a big number but I feel like there's some more opportunities out there."
In the NFL chess match, Woodson makes Dom Capers look like the equivalent of the Russian great Gary Kasparov. Got a stud tight end, like Vernon Davis or Jason Witten? Put Woodson on him, never mind that he's giving away 3 or 4 inches and 40 or 50 pounds. Got an elite receiver, like Detroit's Johnson? Put Woodson on him, even though he doesn't have elite speed. Quarterback Matthew Stafford went to Johnson 12 times. The result? Two catches, 10 yards.
"It's a tremendous asset," Capers said. "To me, that's what this game has become, really. You're talking about matchups."
Woodson's interception total trails only Buffalo rookie Jairus Byrd's eight, and only Chicago's Charles Tillman (six) and San Diego's Shaun Phillips (five) have forced more than Woodson's four fumbles. If the Packers keep winning and Woodson continues playing at an elite level, he's going to be the favorite to win the NFL's defensive player of the year.
"The game that Charles Woodson had, you don't see that very often," coach Mike McCarthy said. "The guy ends up with two interceptions, one for a touchdown, he gets a sack, he causes a fumble, he recovers a fumble. If there's a guy in the league right now playing better than Charles Woodson, I'd like to know who it is."
The three turnovers notwithstanding, Thursday's game wasn't exactly the most exciting for Woodson. Capers generally moves Woodson all around the defense, but against Detroit, he spent most of the game locked up one-on-one against the towering Johnson. He blitzed only once. Naturally, he got a sack, helping to kill the Lions' promising drive just before halftime.
"I mean, hey, 1-for-1, hey, why not?" Woodson said with a laugh.
While Stafford can be credited for supreme toughness for playing through an injured shoulder, he gets no kudos for football IQ by continually throwing the ball Woodson's direction. Experience helps. Just ask his counterpart, Aaron Rodgers. Outside of his annual trip to Tampa Bay, Rodgers throws interceptions once in a blue moon. It's a different story in training camp, when the starters battle the starters for the first few weeks before going into more of a game-planning mode by working against scout-team reserves.
"Once we start doing (scout team) cards in training camp, it's nice because any time I've got to go against Wood, you don't even think about going over there," Rodgers said. "He's so smart and he's got great instincts. He runs the routes for guys sometimes. He's an incredible player. He's taught me a lot, just being able to talk to him during training camp or the season about what he sees, what he thinks about, what he's diagnosing. He's really given me some good things to pick up."
Stafford will learn. Woodson's first interception, intended for Bryant Johnson, was exactly what Rodgers described, with Woodson basically running Johnson's route and stepping in front of the ball. The second clinched the game, with Woodson's sublime preparation skills on a pass intended for Johnson leading to his 38-yard touchdown return.
In the end zone, Woodson dusted off the Heisman pose, which he struck 12 years ago while a senior at Michigan after scoring against rival Ohio State.
"It's fun, it's home," he said. "I feel like these are my fans. Even though they root for the Lions, I feel like I did enough in my few years around here that people still remember. It feels good."
Those receiving care at the C.M. Mott Children's and Women's Hospital will remember and thank Woodson long, long after his playing days are over. Woodson's gift will support groundbreaking pediatric research by funding The Charles Woodson Clinical Research Fund. Woodson's gift was partially funded by the $10 per bottle he pledged for every bottle of his Twentyfour brand of wine, winemaker Rick Ruiz said in an interview for the cover story of the new Packer Report Magazine.
"My reason for working so hard has always been to be a part of something great," Woodson said. "My gift to Mott is so that I can be part of the great things that are happening there, and so that I can help aspiring young doctors do their own outstanding work to help children."