Charles Woodson was one of the key figures in The Snow Bowl in the 2001 NFL playoffs, a subject which naturally came up during an interview today because Woodson will face the Patriots once again on Sunday.
Woodson, playing for the Raiders at the time, was the one who hit Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and caused him to lose the ball late in the fourth quarter. A video review led to a ruling of incomplete pass, negating an apparent game-winning fumble recovery by the Raiders and allowing the Patriots to tie the game, then win in overtime.
Woodson, a cornerback, has played for the Packers since 2006, but before his pro career he was a teammate of Brady’s at Michigan. Woodson maintains that Brady and the Patriots robbed the Raiders a victory in the Snow Bowl.
Here are his responses to reporters’ questions today. Text was provided by the Patriots’ media relations department.
Q: Can you talk about having been a teammate of Tom Brady’s and how he’s improved in his 11th season, and also if he stole your ring in 2001?
CW: Well, first, yeah, he did steal my ring and I’m still waiting around to get mine. Brady, in college, he was a guy who worked hard and you knew he’d be good, but who knew he’d be where he is now? He was a guy that always worked at his craft and you knew what kind of competitor he was. He was a guy that whether we were getting ready for practice, he was trying to lead the offense or whether we were at a [recreation] center playing basketball, he was a competitive guy. So, you knew he had that in him as well. I think, over the year, he’s just continued to get better and I think that’s what you have to do in this league and he’s done that.
Q: Did he have any [basketball] game?
CW: Not really, not really.
Q: Can you talk about what you’ve seen from him on film during this five-game win streak the Patriots are on?
CW: I think he’s deadly accurate. He’s making all the throws. His receivers are getting open for him and they’re making plays after the catch and getting in space and just having some mismatches there and he’s just hitting them and hitting them all over the field – whether they’re short passes, long passes, [or] intermediate – he’s making all the throws.
Q: Did you look at the film from when Randy Moss was here and if you did, does it look any different now?
CW: Yeah, it’s different. I’ve watched some of the games that were televised. I haven’t watched the film on them. I think they’re definitely a different team now. I think the ball’s being spread out even more. When [Moss] was there, he was the target of a lot of passes and now it’s just all over the place. Every week, all the guys are getting four or five catches. Brady’s spreading it around a lot more and the offense is just clicking right now for him.
Q: How much do you have on your plate, defensively, as a corner? Do you have as much on your plate as any defensive player might have?
CW: Yeah, I think so. I’m just used a lot of different ways. I move around a lot on the defense. I’m outside at corner, inside at nickel, dime at times. I line up at safety. I blitz, cover, pretty much do it all – I think as much as anybody, probably, in the league – but it’s something I love doing. I have fun out there when I’m playing that way.
Q: When did you get to the point in your career when you could be like this? It wasn’t like this when you were a rookie or second-year guy, was it?
CW: Well, I’ve always been that kind of player. But, early in my career playing at Oakland, all we played was man-to-man. That was all we did, so there wasn’t much moving around. You had a guy and that was it. So, getting with the coach and a coordinator that likes to do different things and likes to show different looks and play some zone and fire zones and all those sorts of things, you get an opportunity to move around and be put into positions where you can make plays. The difference is the coach and having somebody that runs that style of defense.
Q: No one knew what Tom Brady would turn into, but when you were at Michigan with him, did you see the makings of a great quarterback, a very good quarterback or what did you think he could turn into?
CW: I thought he would be good. I thought the times in practice when he would get in, he’s always had that command for the huddle. I think guys respect him, first and foremost. He was a guy that was always comfortable in the pocket and could make all the throws. I think coming out of there, there was a misconception about him throwing the football and that he couldn’t throw it deep, but that’s not what we saw. We saw a young guy that was waiting around for an opportunity and it didn’t come around for a while. And then I think he ended up having to split time his last year there, which I’m sure he didn’t want to do, but he did it. Then he finally got an opportunity in the NFL and he’s run with it.
Q: So you weren’t hoping that they would put in Drew Henson?
CW: Well, I was gone by the time [Brady] finally got his shot. [Brain] Griese was the quarterback when we won the championship and Brady didn’t get a chance until after I was gone.
Q: There have been comparisons between Joe Montana and Brady and just the style of quarterback that they are. Do you see it and who is the best passer in today’s game?
CW: Well, I think Brady is one as far as quarterbacks are concerned. There are some similarities. Joe Montana was ‘Joe Cool’ and Brady’s no different, watching him on film and watching games when they’re on television, the way he drops back and sits in that pocket as if there’s no rush coming. And if somebody gets to him, he calmly steps up in the pocket, and if he has to get out of the pocket, he does that as well, but there’s no panic to his game. And he’s a winner and Joe was a winner as well, so I guess that’s the greatest comparison between them.
Q: If it snows on Sunday, which it may, do you think you’ll be having flashbacks to the “Tuck Rule” game?
CW: You know, I’ve had that flashback more times than I would like. I catch that game on the classic football channel sometimes. That’s a bad memory for me, but you know, it is what it is. This week, we’re just going to try and concentrate on getting this win, whether it snows or not.
Q: Was that a fumble?
CW: You know, let me ask you that question. Was it a fumble?
Q: I was only 18.
CW: I don’t want to know how old you were. Was that a fumble?
Q: I’m going to go with the referee on that one.
CW: No! My goodness. Alright, alright. I understand.
Q: Do you expect Aaron Rodgers to play? Is he close to getting back or do you think he might sit this one out?
CW: I don’t know. This is the second time this happened to him. I know they’re going to go through some evaluation of him, but you know, in this game, guys want to be on the field. So, my gut would be, really, that he would play, but that, of course, is up to doctors and, ultimately, up to him – whether or not he feels up to it. Knowing guys in this league in general, especially a guy like [Rodgers], he’s going to do everything he can to play. But again, what do I know?
Q: What’s it going to be like covering Deion Branch? You covered him when he was in Seattle. Have you seen different things from him since he’s been back here with Brady?
CW: Well, I just think he fits perfect for what they do: quick routes or a quick pass out to the receivers and they’re good, like I said, with yards after the catch. He’s one of those quick receivers that can get in and out of breaks very quickly. And, like I said, that compliments their offense well with what they try to do. He just fits in well with them.
Q: Would you rather cover him or Randy Moss? What’s more of a challenge for you?
CW: I think the biggest challenge is always a guy with the speed of Randy. But, like I said, [in] this offense, the harder receiver [to cover] is going to be a guy like Branch, a guy like Welker – those quick guys who get in and out of space very well, get in and out of their cuts very well. For what this team is doing, [Branch] is a better fit.
Q: What happened to you guys on Sunday against the Lions?
CW: I think it was bad football, bad football on our part, really in all phases – well, I guess the bright spot would be special teams – they played a good game. Defensively, we played well for almost the whole game. We gave up a late score. Offensively, we couldn’t punch it. We just played bad football.
Q: I know how impatient you are for a ring and with what you guys had on the line last week, was that disappointing for you guys to come out and play like you did against the Lions?
CW: Yeah, it was very disappointing from the standpoint that everybody here knows that we don’t really have any room for error. The Patriots beat Chicago which helped us out and all we had to do was win our game. Every game is an important game for us and this one here is going to be even bigger than the last one, so it was very disappointing not helping ourselves out in our cause in trying to get to the playoffs. So, that game was very disappointing.
Q: Have you talked to Tom this week?
CW: I have not talked to him this week, but I’ll probably shoot him a text later on this week as we get ready to head out that way. But, no, I have not to this point.