GREEN BAY – Charles Woodson is officially a safety – at least in the Green Bay Packers base defense.
One day after cutting incumbent starter Charlie Peprah after he failed his physical, the Packers lined their eight-time Pro Bowl cornerback up at strong safety in their No. 1 base (“Okie”) defense during the first practice of training camp. With Woodson at safety, Jarrett Bush lined up at cornerback opposite Tramon Williams, putting Bush ahead of last year’s No. 3 cornerback, Sam Shields.
Then, when they shifted to their nickel defense, Woodson moved to his customary spot in the slot, with second-year defensive back M.D. Jennings taking over at safety alongside Morgan Burnett. Jennings, who made the team as an undrafted free agent last year and played primarily on special teams, moved from cornerback to safety during the offseason and took most of the first-team reps during organized team activity practices and minicamp while Peprah was out with a knee injury.
Coach Mike McCarthy, who said earlier this offseason that Woodson’s role would be changing by about “6 to 8 percent,” downplayed the significance of Woodson’s move, pointing out that the team has used a “Three Okie” or “Corner Okie” defense the past two years under defensive coordinator Dom Capers, in which Woodson would shift to safety, Peprah would come out of the game and Shields would take Woodson’s cornerback spot.
“Charles has played that (safety) position. We used to call it our ‘Three Okie’ package and now he’s just lined up in ‘Okie’ playing strong safety,” McCarthy said. “So it really isn’t anything new. I mean, it’s the same really as it’s always been.”
McCarthy explained that the thought process among the coaches about using Woodson was to keep the priority on putting him in position to make plays.
“Throughout his career, he’s been a playmaker, whether he’s played the corner or the inside position,” McCarthy said. “In our particular defense, we feel that he is a lot more valuable to us the closer he is to the ball because of the different positions he can play, the number of different things that we’re able to do with him. So that’s really part of the thinking of trying to get him closer to the ball and more involved because of his instincts. He plays the game a lot like a quarterback does from a defensive side.”
Woodson was not among the players who came through the locker room during the post-practice media availability session.
Meanwhile, when asked about the decision to release Peprah, McCarthy replied: “We have some young players that we’re excited about, some players we’ve had a chance to watch throughout the spring. Charlie’s situation, really looking at all the options after his visit with the doctors … really, it’s a lot of competition. … The safety position is something I’m sure will be evaluated throughout training camp and frankly will probably come down to special teams.”
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