Woodson has one glaring black mark on his resume. It’s the one thing critics and analysts always come back to whenever discussing this topic. What happened in Oakland from 2002 to 2005? Woodson went from making four straight Pro Bowls to start his NFL career to fizzling out with the Raiders amid disputes with head coach Bill Callahan and injuries — a shoulder in ’02, a cracked fibula in the same year, a broken leg in ’05. In a way, however, he should get credit for overcoming all of that and reinventing himself as a 30-year-old, an age when a lot of speedy defensive backs lose their spot.
When Oakland released him following the ’05 season, he had just two suitors and ended up in Green Bay despite admitting that he didn’t even want to be there. It was the perfect marriage, and probably saved the corner’s career.
Now that he’s back in Oakland, Woodson is on his fourth or fifth life as an NFL player, still causing havoc, still making plays. Last year he had the second-most tackles of his career and started every game. This past summer, he contemplated retirement before letting everyone know he still had a lot of football left in him. When was the last time you saw a 38-year-old who could still play like this? Not much has changed since he was turning in one of the greatest college football seasons ever at Michigan.
4 of 5
Tied for the most defensive touchdowns in league history, with a nearly unparalleled ability to take it to the house, Woodson is one of the greatest ballhawking defenders you will ever see. With the Packers from 2006-09, after years of getting avoided by quarterbacks, this dude had 28 interceptions. (If Ed Reed doesn’t find his way back onto a team, Woodson is the active leader in career picks.)
But where Woodson really stands head and shoulders above the rest of his competition is with his unique ability to strip the ball. Ask Tom Brady about that one. Woodson was involved in the infamous “Tuck Rule” playoff game in 2001 between New England and Oakland and has forced 32 fumbles throughout his career, including nine during a spectacular two-year span in Green Bay.
In his eyes, at least, that makes him special. Last year against San Diego after a 25-yard fumble return for a touchdown, tying a record, Woodson said, “I’m one of the greatest to ever play this game.”
I have to agree.
5 of 5
When Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was asked last October if former Dallas player Deion Sanders could’ve shut down Calvin Johnson, the answer was pretty predictable. Yes, he could have, Jones said, and we all believed him too. To proclaim someone other than Deion Sanders the best defensive back in NFL history is almost heresy at this point. He was that good, that fast, that quick, that feared. Prime Time is considered one of the greatest athletes in any sport — right up there with Bo Jackson — let alone at one of the most underappreciated positions in football.
But he’s not the best defensive back we’ve ever seen.
There’s a man playing in 2014 — and turning 38 years old today — who is better, who has been better. No, he was never feared the way Sanders was, and he lacked the same unmistakable charisma that made Sanders a national icon while coining phrases like “If you look good, you feel good. If you feel good, you play good. If you play good, they pay good.”
This man also couldn’t stop Johnson. Not in 2014. Not ever. He doesn’t have the personal experience that Darrelle Revis has. He doesn’t have the explosiveness of Patrick Peterson. He doesn’t have the height or moxie of Richard Sherman. (And even with all of that, none of those guys can stop Megatron.) But despite all of that, despite a mid-career slump, and despite playing for one of the worst teams in the NFL this year, Oakland’s Charles Woodson is the Best Defensive Back Ever. Here are five reasons why.
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