Packers’ Woodson leading through words, not just actions
Immediately after the Green Bay Packers beat the Chicago Bears in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game, Woodson went to the middle of the locker room to address the team.
He had been thinking about President Barack Obama’s promise to attend the Super Bowl if his favorite team, the Chicago Bears, were playing in it. And after the Packers beat the Bears to earn a trip to the Super Bowl instead, Woodson used the President’s pledge to fire up his teammates.
In a video clip posted on the Packers’ website, Woodson is shown in the middle of the locker room. He begins by calmly talking about the team sticking together as one — and then he cuts loose.
“And check this,” Woodson said, his voice rising. “If the President don’t want to come watch us in the Super Bowl, guess what? We’ll go see him!”
Amid the shouts from his teammates, Woodson led a cheer: “1-2-3 … White House!”
Woodson even found a good-natured way to talk some smack to the President himself this week, autographing a jersey for Obama with the message, “See you at the White House. Go Packers.”
It’s the natural next step in Woodson’s evolution as a leader.
Woodson was The Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year last season. And several teammates, including cornerbacks Tramon Williams and Sam Shields, have credited him with helping them get better.
But Woodson hadn’t been particularly vocal in his leadership until now.
After rotating captains during the regular season, the Packers took a player vote to elect six captains for the playoffs. Woodson was selected, along with Aaron Rodgers, wide receiver Greg Jennings, linebacker A.J. Hawk, special teams standout Jarrett Bush and kicker Mason Crosby.
The other five captains then decided that Woodson should be in charge of talking to the team.
“The other captains kind of nominated me without any voting process, they kind of pushed me out there to be the guy to do it,” Woodson said. “And it was fine with me. I feel like I’ve played this game a long time, played it at a high level. I feel like the things I can say to the team are things that mean something to them, and I can give them something that maybe I’ve been through and just shed a little light on this process. So it just kind of happened that way.”
Rodgers knew Woodson was the right choice.
“Anytime he speaks, I think he’s starting to realize he has a lot of respect in the locker room and guys listen to him, they appreciate what he has to say,” Rodgers said. “And he’s pretty good at it, too.”
Outside linebacker Frank Zombo, an undrafted rookie free agent who made the team, said Woodson commands respect in the locker room.
“When he goes to speak, he’s got everybody’s attention,” Zombo said. “And you know that’s coming straight from the heart. That’s just a guy who’s been through it all, everyone has a lot of respect for. When he talks, everyone stops and listens.”
Woodson isn’t just winging it up there.
“You don’t want to just go up there and rant,” Woodson said. “You want to give it some thought because you’re talking to your peers, and at the same time, you’re talking at a time where the games are bigger than ever.”
Defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins said it’s working because Woodson’s act isn’t over the top.
“I mean, he’s still the same person,” Jenkins said. “He’s not running through here every chance he gets trying to make a speech. He doesn’t do it way too often, but when he does do it, guys really listen to it because you know that it has meaning to it.”
All that said, Woodson remains one of the guys. Jenkins joked that Woodson’s age (34) is the thing that makes him most qualified.
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“Anytime you’ve got somebody that’s as old as him, he’s like the senior citizen of the team,” Jenkins said.
In all seriousness, Jenkins said Woodson is doing a great job.
“He’s a leader of this team,” Jenkins said. “Any time that you look at a guy who’s had as much individual success as he has, for so long, and still seem him motivated to accomplish something as a team, it just rubs off and you can’t help but look up to a guy like that.”
Woodson, who went to the January 2003 Super Bowl with the Oakland Raiders and lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, said he’s driven to win a ring before he retires.
“There’s still some more to get to,” Woodson said. “But it’s an everyday, every minute, every second thought for myself.”