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Updated: January 1st, 2013 6:12pm
Notebook: Defensive back Charles Woodson cleared to return for Packers

Notebook: Defensive back Charles Woodson cleared to return for Packers

by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Green Bay Packers' secondary appears as if it will get some help for Saturday night's first-round playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field.

Coach Mike McCarthy said after the Packers' practice on Tuesday that veteran Charles Woodson has been cleared to return.

Woodson, 36, did not play in last Sunday's 37-34 loss to the Vikings at the Metrodome, the ninth game in a row he had missed because of a broken collarbone suffered in Week 7.

Woodson, an eight-time Pro Bowl selection, plays strong safety in the Packers' 3-4 base defense and shifts to the slot corner in the nickel and dime defenses. Safeties M.D. Jennings and Casey Hayward, a rookie, were paired while Woodson was out.

The Packers also expect to get wide receiver and return man Randall Cobb back after he sat out last Sunday because of a sprained ankle. It's not clear if Cobb will serve in the return role on Saturday.

Wide receivers Jordy Nelson (knee) and Jarrett Boykin (ankle), running back James Starks (knee) and defensive lineman Jerel Worthy (knee) did not practice for the Packers. McCarthy said there would be more information about Nelson and Worthy's status on Wednesday.

Keeping him safe

Quarterback Christian Ponder was sacked only once in Sunday's game and that came after a review showed that Ponder was down before he got rid of the football.

Ponder said Tuesday he was pleased with the protection he received.

"They showed a lot of those pressures on film, so we're very familiar with them," he said. "(Offensive line coach Jeff) Davidson and (offensive coordinator Bill) Musgrave did a great job of recognizing those things and being able to pick up certain stuff in pass protection, and the offensive line did a great job. And (center John Sullivan) does a great job of understanding and seeing different things and making calls to make sure that we pick those things up."

Missing McKenzie

Linebacker Tyrone McKenzie, who plays an important role on special teams for the Vikings, had his injured left shoulder in a sling on Tuesday and it appears unlikely he will play against the Packers.

"He's been a core guy for us throughout the season; actually had gotten a game ball the previous week for his contribution on special teams," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said.

Frazier will have to juggle a few players on his game-day roster with McKenzie out.

Because Brian Robison played with an injured shoulder last Sunday, the Vikings had an extra defensive lineman up and had rookie safety Robert Blanton down. Blanton, though, has contributed on special teams and almost certainly will play Saturday.

Accepting the blame

Frazier acknowledged Monday that linebacker Erin Henderson was at fault for the 5-yard touchdown pass that Rodgers completed to a wide open Greg Jennings on Sunday in the third quarter.

Henderson, to his credit, did not attempt to put a different spin on things when asked what happened on the play.

"I'm an idiot," he said. "Pretty much in a nutshell. ... My eyes were too big, I was trying to see too much. They got in play action, I was nervous about the 'B' gap. Nobody else was in there but me, so if the ball would have cut back I would have had to make that tackle. My eyes got too big."

That meant Henderson allowed Jennings to get away from him and that resulted in an easy score.

Henderson acknowledged that he had to make a quick decision but said that was no excuse for his error.

"It's tough but that's what the game is and that's the difference and that's what separates those little plays that you're talking about," he said. "It's what separates a (pass breakup) from an interception. It's what separates a touchdown from somebody being down on the 6-inch yard line. It's little stuff here and there that kind of makes the game what it is."

He's the man

There has been talk this season about the Vikings needing to feed Pro Bowl running back Adrian Peterson the ball because quarterback Christian Ponder can't get the job done.

But Frazier said Tuesday that the offense always was meant to feature Peterson and have the other players be supporting members.

"We've always tried to bring into focus who we are and what our identity is, from day one, going back to the spring," Frazier said. "This is how we want to be identified. These are our team characteristics. We want to be a tough, smart, disciplined football team.

"I think what we've done offensively (is) to make it clear to our players that this is who we're going to be. Everything's going to revolve around number 28, make no bones about it. That kind of takes some of the potential second-guessing out of it -- 'Well, we should be trying to do this.' No, no, this is who we are. This is how we're going to win in the NFL. We're going to be a run-oriented football team.

"We're going to be able to get some explosive plays in the passing game because we're going to run the football so well. We're going to be a good play action team. We're going to run bootlegs and have success with it because we run the football so well. Now, every quarterback wouldn't want to hear that in our league, but that's where we are, and that's the way we want to do it. To Christian's credit, he's accepted that. He's embraced it, and he's done a good job for it."

Kluwe goes national

Chris Kluwe is scheduled to be a guest on Stephen Colbert's show next Tuesday but the Vikings punter isn't sure now if he will make it.

Colbert's people approached Kluwe about two months ago and told him that Colbert was a fan and would like to have him on. "I was like, 'Yeah, that would be pretty cool,'" Kluwe said.

Kluwe's thinking was the Vikings season was either going to be over or, even if it wasn't, Tuesday is normally an off day for players.

But there is a chance the Vikings could end up playing on a Saturday again and practice on Tuesday.

"Hopefully the scheduling works out," said Kluwe, who is scheduled to travel to New York to tape the appearance.

Getting better

Robison returned to play last Sunday, despite the fact he continues to deal with the pain from a Grade 2 sprain of the AC joint in his right shoulder.

"It's better today than it was after the game," Robison said. " ... Hopefully it will be better this week than it was last week."

Robison had a huge strip sack of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the third quarter Sunday that teammate Jared Allen recovered at the 50-yard line. The Vikings then drove for a touchdown to go up 27-17.

Asked if he had his normal power and leverage in that game, Robison said: "Absolutely not. But it's one of those things you've just got to put it out of your head and you go throughout the game and you try to do your normal stuff. If some stuff isn't working, you move onto something else. It's one of those deals that you've got to give it a shot because you never know."

Quick hits

The Packers like to spread defenses out and utilize a variety of receivers, making matchups difficult at times. "They do a good job of it," Frazier said. "When I read Coach (McCarthy's) quotes, and he says, 'We're always looking for matchups,' I know what he means." 

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd
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