Make no mistake: The Packers will sorely miss eight-time Pro Bowler and future Hall of Famer Charles Woodson, who is out at least six weeks after suffering a broken left collarbone in Week Seven.
While he hadn’t been making big plays at the same rate as last season, when he tied for the league lead with seven interceptions, our sources who watch Woodson every day believe his special ability to force turnovers remains intact. In addition, the loss of Woodson’s versatility and on-field leadership will no doubt be felt in a major way.
However, the consensus seems to be that Woodson’s injury does not qualify as being devastating, thanks to the young talent expected to collectively fill the major void his absence creates.
That would especially appear to be the case with second-round rookie Casey Hayward, who has raised eyebrows to the rafters with four interceptions in the last three games — a feat that Woodson has never accomplished. With tremendous instincts that more than compensate for just average speed, team sources suspect Hayward actually might prove to be an upgrade from Woodson as the team's slot corner.
The same can’t be said, though, for the dual effort that will be expected from rookie Jerron McMillian and M.D. Jennings to replace Woodson in his role as the strong safety in the team’s base defense. Considered on an equal level, McMillan and Jennings are expected to alternate in that capacity.
Two other important points worth making regarding Woodson:
• Woodson hardly will be going into hiding and, if form holds — as was the case when the same type of injury knocked him out of Super Bowl XLV — he will continue to provide a commanding leadership presence on the sideline while he recuperates.
• Reports are already emanating out of Green Bay that Woodson, whose extreme toughness might be his most underrated quality, could be back sooner than the initial six-week projection for his return.