Woodson named NFL Defensive Player of the Year
The versatile Woodson tied for the league lead with nine interceptions, returning three for touchdowns, and was a key to the Packers’ turnaround on defense. His role in Green Bay’s ranking second in overall defense, first in interceptions (30), takeaways (40) and turnover margin (plus-24) earned Woodson 28 votes Tuesday from a nationwide panel of 50 sports writers and broadcasters who cover the NFL.
“It’s a great honor,” Woodson said in a telephone interview Tuesday. “I felt like I put a lot into the game, mentally and physically—your body’s always beat up—and it’s great to be recognized.”
He doubled the number of votes for New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis in becoming the first Green Bay winner since Reggie White in 1998 and just the second Packer in the 36-year history of the award.
Woodson, the 1997 Heisman Trophy recipient, is the first cornerback chosen top defensive player since Deion Sanders in 1994.
After a disappointing performance by the Packers
defense in Sunday’s 51-45 overtime playoff loss at Arizona, Woodson is more motivated than ever to pursue the one honor that has eluded him in his career: a Super Bowl victory.
“That’s it,” Woodson said. “Especially now, to get this award, I’ve done everything an individual can do.”
How much longer will he play?
“I’m just going to keep taking shots until I get back to the Super Bowl—and win it,” Woodson said.
He got the honor in great part because of the way he anchored a defense in transition. Woodson was used in a variety of ways by new defensive coordinator Dom Capers as Green Bay made the switch to a 3-4. At times, the unit was shaky—except for Woodson, who played the role of cover cornerback, blitzer, run-stuffer and ballhawk.
“Any time you go out there on the field, you go out there to win the game, of course,” Woodson said, “but you go out there to be consistent and a reliable player. And that’s what that award is.”
The Packers went 11-5 during the season, including taking seven of eight games in the second half of the schedule to secure an NFC wild-card berth. In that span, Green Bay allowed 15.6 points per game. Take away a last-second 37-36 loss to Pittsburgh, and the number becomes a minuscule 11.4.
“I’ve said it before, he’s had two or three games that I can’t imagine any defensive player in the league having better games,” said Capers, who also coached Rod Woodson (1993) and Jason Taylor (2006) when they won the award.
Denver linebacker Elvis Dumervil, who led the league in sacks, and New Orleans safety Darren Sharper, who tied with Woodson for the interceptions lead and also ran back three for scores, each got three votes. Minnesota end Jared Allen received the other two votes.