Woodson Voted by Sporting News as the NFL Defensive Player of the Year

Packers cornerback Charles Woodson is Sporting News’ NFL defensive player of the year, as selected by a panel of 636 players, coaches and executives.

Woodson received 241 first-place votes from the 583 players polled. Saints safety Darren Shaper was second with 113.

Not many cornerbacks have their best season at 33, and none has been as dominant at that age as Woodson, a Heisman Trophy winner who has gone from shutdown corner to all-around menace in his first year in coordinator Dom Capers’ 3-4 defense. The Packers asked him to cover, blitz and stop the run, and he did it all at a high level. In leading the Packers to an 11-5 record before their wild-card loss at Arizona on Sunday, Woodson showed his diversity in his numbers — 9 interceptions (tied for the league lead), 2 sacks, 4 forced fumbles and 3 touchdowns.

“A lot of people study the game and the tape, but they don’t trust what they see,” fellow Packers cornerback Tramon Williams said in the latest issue of Sporting News magazine. “When he studies something, he’s faithful to it. That’s why he makes a lot of plays.”

Not since Desmond Howard was Super Bowl MVP after the 1996 season has a Heisman winner from Michigan been as beloved in Green Bay as Woodson. “I’m extremely proud of him,” Howard said. “To have a season like Charles has had in Green Bay, the Packers fans, they just love you. The Packers are pretty much all they have up there, and they adopt you as one of their own.”

Sharper, 34, a former Packer, also had nine interceptions. Before this year, the last time a player at least as old as Woodson had that many interceptions was 1975, when then Vikings safety Paul Krause recorded 10 at age 33. “What it comes down to is experience and the fact we’ve been able to stay healthy and take care of our bodies and play at a high level for this amount of time,” Sharper said of his and Woodson’s seasons. “Having two guys that are past their 11th year in the league in the running for (the SN award) just shows the fact that both us of have studied the game and we also have kept ourselves able to still run.”

Woodson had eight interceptions for the Packers in 2006 but it was his performance as a complete defender that earned him the award for ’09. “I had eight picks in ’06, and nobody really cared,” Woodson said. “So it’s recognition, people saying a lot of good things about you. And it’s going out and being consistent. And then the team is doing well. When the team does well, people pay attention.”

Woodson was the lone Packer on SN’s all-pro defense. The Vikings and Broncos each had two players picked.

SPORTING NEWS’ ALL-PRO DEFENSE

DE Jared Allen, Vikings: Second player with at least 14 1/2 sacks in three consecutive seasons.
DT Darnell Dockett, Cardinals: His 7 sacks tied for first among defensive tackles.
DT Kevin Williams, Vikings: Produced 6 sacks while also anchoring the NFL’s No. 2 run defense.
DE Dwight Freeney, Colts: Sack total of 13 1/2 was most since ’04.
OLB Elvis Dumervil, Broncos: Led league with 17 sacks in ’09 after recording only 5 in ’08.
ILB Patrick Willis, 49ers: One of three players to record at least 4 sacks and 3 interceptions.
OLB DeMarcus Ware, Cowboys: Fourth consecutive season with 11 or more sacks.
CB Darrelle Revis, Jets: Shut down top receivers; tallied 6 interceptions while allowing only 2 TDs.
CB Charles Woodson, Packers: Tied for league lead with 9 interceptions; also had 4 forced fumbles, 2 sacks and 3 TDs.
S Darren Sharper, Saints: Racked up NFL-record 376 yards off 9 interception returns.
S Brian Dawkins, Broncos: Raised Broncos’ pass defense to No. 3 in NFL; was 26th in ’08.
P Shane Lechler, Raiders: 51.1 yards per punt set NFL record.
PR DeSean Jackson, Eagles: Averaged league-high 15.2 yards per return.

The complete NFL awards package can be found in the new Sporting News Magazine, which arrives later this week at all Barnes & Noble, Borders and Hudson Retail outlets. SN will announce other award winners throughout the week.


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