Charles Woodson is back.
He’ll get a rugged welcome from Adrian Peterson.
Woodson broke his collarbone late in the Oct. 21 game against St. Louis. He missed the Green Bay Packers’ last nine regular-season games but has been cleared by the medical staff for Saturday night’s playoff game against the Vikings. As rugged a tackler as he is a marquee playmaker, he’ll be put to an immediate test by the hard-charging Peterson, who rushed for 409 yards in two games against the Packers this season.
“It is a good week (to get back Woodson),” safeties coach Darren Perry said on Thursday. “I know he’s excited and we’re excited to have him back. I know he’s been champing at the bit and this is a good time to have him back. Looking forward to seeing him out there and doing what he’s always done.”
Coach Mike McCarthy said Woodson’s in good physical condition after practicing hard for the past few weeks and won’t be on any kind of rep count.
Asked if the prospect of tackling the 217-pound freak of nature that is Peterson poses a mental and physical challenge for a defensive player who is coming off a major injury and hasn’t tackled anyone in about two-and-a-half months, Perry said: “Not for Charles. He’s up for it. It’s been a long 11 weeks for him. I know he’s anxious to get back out there and prove his worth. It’s tough when you’re not playing, particularly a guy who’s done what he’s done in this league for so many years to have to sit back and watch and not really feel like you’re contributing. That was a tough deal for him. He’s more than ready to be back.
Just how he’ll be used is a mystery, though he figures to line up with Morgan Burnett at safety in the base defense. Woodson has excelled throughout his career as the nickel (slot) cornerback, but rookie Casey Hayward has played well in that role. It’s possible Woodson’s slot duties would be limited to the dime package, where he’d replace rookie Jerron McMillian.
“It’s his experience and experience in big games,” defensive coordinator Dom Capers said on Thursday. “The guy has played for a long time and played at a very high level. I think all the guys are excited about having him back. He brings a certain confidence level because he’s made plays in big games. It’s been a while since he’s been in there, but he’s always made two, three plays a game that affect the game.”
Packers injury report
Out: DE Jerel Worthy (knee). Did not participate: WR Jarrett Boykin (ankle); Tramon Williams (illness). Limited: RB James Starks (knee). Full: WR Randall Cobb (ankle); TE Jermichael Finley (quad); RB Alex Green (knee); CB Davon House (hip); WR Jordy Nelson (knee); DB Charles Woodson (collarbone).
While Woodson is back, the Packers got some troubling news with Williams being the latest player hit with the flu. He was given medication and set home. Meanwhile, Cobb, Finley, Nelson and House all went from limited to full participation.
Vikings injury report
Did not participate: LB Tyrone McKenzie (shoulder); CB Antoine Winfield (hand). Limited: RB Adrian Peterson (abdomen); QB Christian Ponder (right elbow); DE Brian Robison (shoulder); S Harrison Smith (knee). Full: DE Jared Allen (shoulder); CB A.J. Jefferson (ankle); DE George Johnson (quad); P Chris Kluwe (left knee); T Phil Loadholt (knee).
“He makes a difference, there’s no question about it,” Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said of Winfield, who was limited to 19 snaps on Sunday because of a broken hand. “So, it was encouraging that he felt better today. He provides leadership (and) he’s had a very, very good year for us. It’s hard to replace him but other guys will have to step up and we’ll have to play better without him if for some reason something were to happen in the game. We’ll have to do a better job than we did last week in his absence if that were to occur.”
Frazier said Ponder has been limited mostly to mental work because of a “tight” elbow but should be fine for Saturday.
— McCarthy, on the physical state of his team on a short week: “I feel good about where we are as football team. Any time you come off a turf game, it’s a little tougher on their bodies. You have to be in tune with that. We pushed it yesterday. I feel very good about where we’re at. Their bodies are back and we’re ready to go.”
— It’s supposed to be about 20 degrees at kickoff, making it anything but frigid. Both teams worked in the cold with the doors open in their indoor practice facilities. With heating coils on part of Ray Nitschke Field, the Packers were able to do some work outside, including about 30 minutes on ball drills on Thursday. The Vikings don’t have that ability with their practice fields. “It won’t be a complete shock to the system when we walk out on the field at Lambeau,” Frazier told Vikings beat writers. “I think it helped us. I think we did the right thing.”
— Defensive line coach Mike Trgovac, on Worthy, who sustained a season-ending knee injury last week: “He’s had it before (a torn ACL in high school). I think he’ll be OK. He’ll get enough study time in there and he’s a year wiser. Hopefully, it won’t (set him back). We’ll see. My experience with these injuries is sometimes they go in there and say, ‘It wasn’t that bad’ or ‘It wasn’t as bad as we thought,’ or they come back and say, ‘It was worse than we thought.’ He’s not going to get any OTAs but he’s been there before (with a knee injury).”
— Nelson, on having a healthy receiving corps: “It's got to be to our advantage. We have an extremely good group of receivers and the more we put out there, the more DBs they've got to put out there, which is going to create a mismatch somewhere. It's the coaches' job and our job to find that mismatch and take advantage of it. If the play comes up, that's what we're going to do.”
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