IRVING, Texas — Charles Woodson knows this could be his last chance.
He’s been to the Super Bowl once — and lost — in 13 NFL seasons and knows it’s probably not wise to count on anything beyond Sunday’s matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“I just understand that where I’m at in my career, I don’t know how much football’s left,” Woodson said Wednesday, surrounded by cameras and microphones at the Green Bay Packers’ team hotel. “And so before you leave this game, I think every man wants to win that championship. This is a golden, golden opportunity to get that accomplishment.”
The cornerback lost the 2003 Super Bowl with the Oakland Raiders, sosmething that still bothers him because he was playing hurt.
Packers players know how much winning on Sunday would means to Woodson, and want to get it for him.
“He’s been around for a while now and has a lot of respect throughout the NFL and especially in our locker room,” Packers rookie outside linebacker Frank Zombo said. “When he talks, it’s almost like an honor to listen to him.”
The Packers chose Woodson as one of their six captains for the postseason, and the other five decided he would be the one to give the locker room speeches.
“He is a special type of guy and a special player,” linebacker A.J. Hawk said. “He has really embraced it and done really well with that. I think that because it is natural for him. He is never the loudest guy in the locker room or the one talking the most. It is like a boss that sits here and yells at you every day. Eventually you are going to tune him out. Charles, when he speaks, he means it and it always comes from the heart.”
Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward calls Woodson a “beast,” a versatile player who often is a cornerback in name only.
“He can play corner, safety, nickel, linebacker, strong safety,” Ward said. “The guy, he can pick the ball off, he can make you fumble, he’s a great tackler. I just can’t stop saying enough about him. He’s one of the better defensive backs in history.”
Woodson didn’t make quite as many flashy plays this season as he did in 2009, when he was The Associated Press defensive player of the year.
But with the emergence of cornerbacks Tramon Williams and Sam Shields — two young players Woodson has mentored — defensive coordinator Dom Capers has more freedom to turn Woodson loose.
He sometimes moves to safety in the Packers’ defensive scheme and is dangerous as a blitzer. His role can change during a game as Capers makes adjustments.
“It’s a different mentality,” Woodson said. “When you know you have either one side (of the field) or one guy to guard, that’s all you have to worry about. Your role is very specific. Now my role during the course of the game can change up from one quarter to the next.”
Woodson hopes his versatility means he makes more of a difference in this Super Bowl; the last was a blowout loss to Tampa Bay. Woodson hurt his leg earlier that season, and said he a plate was put in a few weeks before the Raiders’ first playoff game.
“Yeah, my leg was killing me the whole time,” he said. “(I) couldn’t react the way I would like to. It was tough. It was tough.”
Woodson left Oakland after the 2005 season and signed with the Packers when other teams weren’t interested.
He says he’s a different person off the field now, acknowledging that he sometimes let fun get in the way of football during his younger days.
“I was really just enjoying the moment, enjoying being young, enjoying being in the NFL,” Woodson said. “I just had a great deal of fun, I really did. I can’t say that I looked this far ahead to being in this role, to being at the opposite end of the spectrum and being closer toward the end than the beginning. Like I said, I think I’ve grown as a person, and I think as a man, that’s what you have to do.”
Now he hopes to guide the Packers’ young players through their first Super Bowl.
“The lights and the cameras and all that, that’ll be an overwhelming feeling for a lot of guys,” Woodson said. “But once they kick the ball off, and you’ve got to go out and hit somebody, the realness of the situation, the game, that’ll all come back to you. I think guys will be fine.”
He has no idea how many seasons he has left.
“I don’t think I’ve lost anything, if that’s what you’re asking, but this is 13 (seasons), you know? How many more can I do? I don’t know,” Woodson said. “At this point, I do feel good, feel like I could play a couple more. But we’ll see. It won’t be 13 more.”