GREEN BAY, Wis. — Charles Woodson has only missed three games since the 2005 season, but the Packers’ veteran safety will be out approximately six weeks due to a broken collarbone. Coach Mike McCarthy confirmed Woodson’s injury during a Monday afternoon press conference.
This is the same collarbone that Woodson injured during Super Bowl XLV in 2011, though McCarthy said the injury this time is “not as severe” as the one suffered nearly 21 months ago when Green Bay beat the Pittsburgh Steelers to win the Lombardi Trophy.
“We were in a staff meeting today and that’s when the news was delivered to me (about Woodson),” McCarthy said. “Just talking to Charles this morning, he was a little nervous about it last night.”
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With less than three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter of the Packers’ Week 7 win in St. Louis, Woodson dove for an interception attempt near the sideline on a pass that Rams quarterback Sam Bradford completed to Brandon Gibson. Woodson stayed in for the next play, which was an unsuccessful fourth-down attempt, but defensive coordinator Dom Capers could tell that something was wrong.
“You saw him protecting his one shoulder,” Capers said of Woodson. “He kind of hit him with one shoulder and kind of walked away. So you could tell that he hurt his shoulder on that play. But I went to him in the locker room after the game and he wasn’t sure. He definitely said it was when he dove to make the interception.”
It’s possible that Woodson could return in early December when four of the Packers’ final five regular-season games are against division opponents.
“That’s the plan,” McCarthy said. “That’s the hope. We’re going to give him that opportunity (to return this season), that’s for sure.”
Woodson, an eight-time Pro Bowl selection and the 2009 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, has 1.5 sacks and one interception through seven games this season. Though Woodson’s statistical production isn’t what it once was, the 36-year-old is still the vocal and emotional leader of Green Bay’s defense.
“There will have to be some other guys pick up the leadership role,” Capers said. “Obviously, Charles is a leader. He’s been a very productive guy on the field and that’s the way you develop into a leader. I think there’s an awful lot of respect for him. Now we’ve got to have some other guys step up and produce.”
One of the players whose responsibility level will increase drastically now in the secondary is Morgan Burnett, who starts alongside Woodson at safety.
“It’s real tough (to lose Woodson),” Burnett said. “That’s one of our leaders right there. A lot of guys look up to him. Now we just wish him a speedy recovery knowing that he’s going to work hard and do what he has to do to get back on the field.”
Since signing with the Packers in 2006, Woodson has been practically injury-free. Now in his seventh season in Green Bay, Woodson missed one game due to a toe injury in 2007, and that’s it. He sat out one additional game in 2007 to rest for the playoffs and did the same thing in 2011 in Week 17.
“He’s been doing this long enough that he knows his body and he’s kept himself in tremendous condition or he wouldn’t be playing at his age right now and be able to play at the level he’s played,” Capers said. “I think that he’ll do all the rehab things and we’ll just have to wait and see what our medical people say in terms of how fast he will be back.
“He’s a guy that I wouldn’t put anything past him in terms of being able to come back.”
This is the latest in a slew of recent injuries on Green Bay’s roster. Two-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Greg Jennings has missed four games already this season due to a groin injury. The Packers’ leading tackler in 2011, inside linebacker Desmond Bishop was placed on injured reserve in preseason. Bishop’s backup, D.J. Smith, was also placed on injured reserve this week. Pro Bowl nose tackle B.J. Raji has missed the past two games with an ankle injury, while first-round pick outside linebacker Nick Perry and starting cornerback Sam Shields both missed Sunday’s win in St. Louis.
“This has been a hard couple of weeks for us,” McCarthy said. “We’ve lost players to season-ending injuries, obviously Charles’ injury is significant. But our younger players are prepared.”