At age 36, Charles Woodson is probably nearing the end of what has been a spectacular career. Last Sunday Woodson, who won NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2010 and tied for the league lead in interceptions last year, broke his collarbone for the second time in three years.
Whether he's lost a step on the field or not, Woodson will not be able to replace.
"He's more than just a player," Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said Wednesday. He's a presence in the locker room, he's a leader. He's a vocal leader. He's a big play guy on defense. He's a guy people have to account for every time. I know if I was playing our defense, I would want to know where he was at."
It will be up to Safeties Jerron McMillian and M.D. Jennings to fill Woodson's void in Green Bay's base defense. Some combination of Casey Hayward, Davon House, or Sam Shields when he returns from injury will have to replace Woodson as a slot corner in the nickel and dime packages.
"That's a big loss," M.D. Jennings said Wednesday. "Charles is basically a coach on the field; he's seen it all. He's been in the game a long time. Me and 'J' (Jerron McMillian) have both been in this situation. This is not our first rodeo so I think both of us are prepared to step in."
"I'm going to do the same thing," said Hayward who is tied for the NFL lead in interceptions as a rookie. "I am going to study the same way and go out there and play like I have been doing for the last couple of weeks. Nothing is going to really change."
Hayward does say there are certain aspects of Woodson's game that others will need to step up and help provide.
"Somebody's got to take the role and be more physical now that Charles is out. He's one of the most physical guys on our team."
A lot of attention has been paid to who will replace Woodson, but not the longest tenured Packers veteran who already seems to have been replaced.
Despite Green Bay's all-time leading receiver, Donald Driver has recorded only 4 receptions in seven games this season.
"If you look at the last couple of years my snaps have been reduced, and really reduced this year," Driver said Wednesday. "It's not a bad thing. There's a lot of guys playing well and those guys are playing to the best of their ability. If the opportunity presents itself I have to be ready to play, and I will be ready when that day comes"
Even with the reduced role, Driver says he has no regrets returning for a 14th season in Green Bay.
"No, I came back and it was all for the opportunity to win another Super Bowl and for the fans. I think it's hard to leave fans that have supported you throughout your career. They have supported me all through the process especially this year with Dancing with the Stars. You can't let them go."
Both Woodson and Driver are aware that "father time" stops for no one in the NFL. So when Woodson returns and Driver gets his opportunities, both will look to make the most of what could be one last chance at a Super Bowl run.