Charles Woodson helped the Green Bay Packers win the Super Bowl in the 2010 season.
On Sunday, the Packers will have to contend with the playmaking safety when they visit his current team, the Raiders.
“It’s hard not to watch Charles Woodson,” said his former teammate, All-Pro quarterback Aaron Rodgers. “He’s obviously a former Packer, a great friend. He was a great leader for us at a time when we needed that type of leadership and he took us to a special place and had a lot of memories together.”
At 39 years old, the NFL’s oldest defensive player is tied for third in the NFL with five interceptions and is first with four forced fumbles.
“Obviously, I’m a little biased but I think any fair opinion out there would say that he’s playing the position at the top of his game right now,” Rodgers said.
While this will be the first Rodgers-Woodson regular-season matchup, they had daily competitions on the practice field, especially during their seven training camps together.
“When you’re a backup, you care so much about how those practices go and every rep, and the last thing you want is to see Charles holding that ball up after an interception and tossing it back to you,” Rodgers said.
Woodson wasn’t sure if those practice field matchups would serve any purpose on Sunday. Back then, Woodson played cornerback and in the slot.
Now, he’s at safety, so he’s seeing the game from a different perspective. Woodson said the key for he and his teammates will be to “keep it simple.”
“It’s about me being patient in the back end, not going for pump fakes and things like that,” Woodson said. “It is fun watching the film and seeing his mechanics and the way he moves around. I’ve never quite studied him like this preparing for a game, so it’ll be a lot of fun.”
In October, Woodson added Denver’s Peyton Manning to the long list of quarterbacks he’s intercepted. He’d love to add Rodgers to that list and move into sole possession of fifth place on the NFL’s career list with 66 interceptions.
“It would be great to get him, man,” Woodson said. “The ball, of course I’m keeping it.”
Woodson spent seven seasons with the Packers, picking off 38 passes from 2006 through 2012 and setting a franchise record with nine interceptions returned for touchdowns.
He was the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year with nine interceptions in 2009, was part of a Super Bowl championship in 2010 and added seven more interceptions in 2011.
In 2012, Woodson moved from cornerback to a combo safety-cornerback. He played only seven games because of a broken collarbone and was released at the end of the season.
Sunday will be a “special” game for Woodson.
Every time you talk about it, it opens up the wound a little bit,” Woodson said with a laugh, still bothered by the release.
Among players age 39 and older in NFL history, nobody has recorded more interceptions in a season than Woodson. Rodgers, however, said it would be “disrespectful” to be surprised by Woodson’s production this season.
After spending most of his career at cornerback, starting with being the No. 4 pick in the 1998 draft by the Raiders, Woodson is now in his third season as a full-time safety.
“He’s excellent around the football,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “He’s always clawing at the ball. Very strong hands. His anticipation skills are obviously at a very high level. He’s playing very well.”