GREEN BAY, Wis. — Packers veteran defensive back Charles Woodson has been cleared to play and will be available in Saturday’s playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings.
Woodson has been out since breaking his collarbone on Oct. 21, missing the final nine regular-season games. The team’s initial expectation was that Woodson would be out only six weeks, but the eight-time Pro Bowler had been unable to get cleared by Green Bay’s medical staff.
“I just think having Charles Woodson back on the field helps our football team,” McCarthy said Tuesday. “Just what he’s meant to our defense, his playmaking ability, his ability to make plays at the line of scrimmage. He’s extremely productive, so I’m just glad to have him back on the field.”
After 14 years playing cornerback for the Raiders and Packers, Woodson was moved to safety this season. The transition was relatively smooth for the 36-year-old, who continued to play most every down in Green Bay’s defense.
Through seven games this season, Woodson had 1.5 sacks and one interception. Getting his leadership and presence back on the field will come at a perfect time for the Packers, especially after the team gave up 37 points to the Vikings in Week 17 — with a rematch set for Saturday night.
“Charles Woodson is a playmaker; he makes plays,” safety Morgan Burnett said. “He’s going to bring energy out there and, just seeing him moving around, excited in the weight room, that makes you excited as a player to go on the field of battle with him.”
In Woodson’s absence, rookie cornerback Casey Hayward performed very well in the slot in nickel packages. Hayward’s six interceptions is the fifth-most in the league and makes him a leading candidate for the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year award. Taking Woodson’s spot at safety has mostly been second-year player M.D. Jennings, who also has had a productive season.
That leaves Woodson’s role in Green Bay’s defense for the playoffs still to be determined. But somehow, defensive coordinator Dom Capers knows he’ll find a place to get the veteran on the field.
“To me, he’s a good football player,” Capers said last week. “There’s always a role for good football players. Our job is to find out ways to get our best football players out on the field. That could mean changing some of the packages and that type of thing. That’s what we always go through: ‘Hey, how can we get our best playmakers on the field?’ and try to put them in the best position to go make plays.”
It’s also likely that the Packers’ No. 1 wide receiver this season, Randall Cobb, will play in Saturday’s playoff game. He missed the regular-season finale due to a right ankle and knee injury but practiced Tuesday.
“I expect him to play,” McCarthy said of Cobb.
Cobb’s injury happened on a punt return on Dec. 23, but he said Tuesday in the locker room that he’s “pretty sure” he would have not missed a game at all had it been a playoff game.
“I think I’ll be ready to go this week,” Cobb added.
There was not much news, however, on the status of wide receiver Jordy Nelson. In Sunday’s game, Nelson injured his knee but returned to catch a game-tying touchdown pass. But Nelson did not practice Tuesday, and McCarthy will not have any medical information on him until Wednesday.