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Cornerstone

Green Bay secondary founded on Woodson

Charles Woodson is focused on a Super Bowl victory. Charles Woodson is focused on a Super Bowl victory. (File/Mike Roemer/Associated Press)
By Monique Walker
Globe Staff / February 5, 2011

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DALLAS — Charles Woodson was looking for a team, any team, to join back in 2006.

The cornerback had compiled an impressive résumé in eight seasons with the Raiders. But at the end of the 2005 season, Woodson was as unrestricted free agent. He waited for the phone calls, but interest didn’t reach the level he had hoped. He visited Tampa Bay and reached out to Jacksonville, Atlanta, Seattle, and others. Nothing.

The only team that wanted him was the Green Bay Packers.

“It was kind of decided for me,’’ Woodson said. “Nobody wanted me coming out of Oakland. I tried to go to a few other places and tried calling a few other places to see if they wanted my services. Some teams returned calls, some didn’t. Green Bay was the only team that was calling my agent and trying to set up a time for us to go there and visit Green Bay, and that’s how it worked out.’’

Woodson, an Ohio native, didn’t know much about the history of the Packers. Now he has the chance to become a bigger part of in the franchise’s tradition. In his fifth season with the Packers, Woodson will play in the second Super Bowl tomorrow.

Woodson never believed his career was over despite the lack of interest from teams. In his first season with the Packers, Woodson set a number of personal bests, including eight interceptions. A year later, he was named an alternate for the Pro Bowl. In 2008, he picked up another Pro Bowl nod, this time as a starter. And last season he was selected the Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year.

While Woodson was with the Raiders, all of his talents weren’t always on display, Packers cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt Jr. said.

“As a football person, I didn’t give Charles the credit that he was due when he was in Oakland,’’ Whitt said. “The guy is an incredible football player. He has a great football mind. He’s a very good person. You don’t know those things being out there in Oakland with the injuries and things that happened to him out there. He’s one of the best things a coach can ask for. I don’t know what they think of him out there [in Oakland], but I have nothing but the highest regard for him.’’

After arriving in Green Bay, Woodson embraced his new team and its tradition. He quickly had to educate himself on what it meant to be a part of a team that owns a record 12 NFL titles.

“Growing up, I never paid attention to the Packers,’’ Woodson said. “I grew up in Ohio, so it was the Cleveland Browns, the Cincinnati Bengals, and I was actually a Giants fan. I don’t know how that happened, but I was.

“Getting to Green Bay and just learning a little bit about the history that I know, it’s an incredible story first and foremost about the team, community, and how the team was able to stay in Green Bay. Then, of course, the great name Vince Lombardi and what he instilled, not only in the team, but in the community as well. It’s a great place to be, and I’m glad I’m a part of it.’’

Woodson, 34, is the elder statesman in a secondary that includes starting safeties Nick Collins and Charlie Peprah, fellow cornerback Tramon Williams, and rookie Sam Shields. Woodson registered 92 tackles during the regular season with two interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown.

“I think just understanding the defense better and the speed at which the young guys like Sam and Tramon have picked up the game has made it a lot better as far as corners are concerned,’’ Woodson said. “We have Collins, who is a Pro Bowl player and just one of the great safeties in this league. He’s gotten better in this defense. Charlie Peprah has started for us all year. He came back to this team and has a great understanding in the defense as a whole.

“We’ve got guys who can make plays out there and have very good ball skills. That’s why we’re playing at a high level.’’

Woodson doesn’t want to see a repeat of the Packers’ last meeting with the Steelers, in 2009. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw for a team-record 503 yards, completing 29 of 46 passes in a 37-36 win at Heinz Field. On the first play of the game, Roethlisberger set the tone by completing a 60-yard touchdown pass to Mike Wallace.

“Last year, my recollection was we didn’t do much,’’ Woodson said. “We had opportunities on Ben to get him sacked and we couldn’t get him down, and then he made some plays with his feet.

“That day, it seemed like we couldn’t do anything right, and we hope that won’t happen again.’’

Tomorrow, Woodson will get another chance to win his first Super Bowl. He is forever connected with the infamous “tuck rule’’ game against the Patriots seven years ago. But Woodson may sleep a little better after this game if the Packers win.

““We got there one time early in my career [in Super Bowl XXXVII], and it’s been a long time since then,’’ he said. “It’s been a dream come true for everybody. You don’t get a lot of opportunities for this. Some guys won’t get it, some guys get one. You’re lucky if you get two. I always felt like this is a position I want to be in.’’

Monique Walker can be reached at mwalker@globe.com.

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