Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Woodson named top defensive player
ESPN.com news services
NEW YORK -- In his own view, Charles Woodson put together his best pro season in 2009. How appropriate, then, that he is The Associated Press 2009 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 performance -- second in the league 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 sportswriters 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 as the 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 ball hawk.
"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. You go out there, you can make plays and can continue to make them through the season and you're mentioned as far as being defensive player of the year, you know you're doing some things right."
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.
Woodson had 63 unassisted tackles and 18 assists, according to the Packers, plus 21 passes defensed, four forced fumbles and one recovery, two sacks for 18 yards, and three quarterback hits.
"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. "I think it speaks volumes when he was player of the month in September and came back and got player of the month again [in November]."
In his third season, Revis established himself as the league's premier cornerback, taking away such prime threats as Steve Smith, Randy Moss, Andre Johnson, Terrell Owens, Chad Ochocinco and Marques Colston. He had six picks, returning one for a TD.
When talking to reporters Tuesday, Jets coach Rex Ryan didn't hide his displeasure with the vote.
"I wasn't going to comment on it," Ryan told reporters. "But I would like to congratulate the people that voted for Darrelle Revis. These guys obviously really know the game. And you've got to look at all the numbers, not just a number about this, or this stat or that stat."
Ryan had high praise for Revis.
"For me, this is the best year a corner has ever had, the most impact a corner has ever had in the National Football League. That's my opinion. But apparently that wasn't the opinion of everybody who voted."
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.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.