GREEN BAY, Wis. – On Wednesday, Aaron Rodgers compared Rasul Douglas to Charles Woodson.
Charles Woodson! The Hall of Famer!
In 2009, Woodson led the NFL with nine interceptions and was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Douglas was 15 at the time.
“I seen a little bit” at the time, Douglas said at his locker on Thursday. “One of the best. Smart, knows where the football’s at, great ball skills, can always get the ball and can go to the house. That’s the best thing about being a DB. That puts you at the top of the DB when you have ball skills and return skills, as well.”
Woodson, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame last year, ranks fifth in NFL history with 65 interceptions and second with 11 interception-return touchdowns. Douglas, despite joining the Packers in October and playing in only 12 games, ranked fourth in the NFL with five interceptions and led the league with two pick-sixes.
So, other than the rather important difference of Woodson intercepting passes and scoring touchdowns year after year after year, maybe what Rodgers said a day earlier wasn’t so nonsensical.
“Rasul is one of the smartest guys I’ve ever played with. He reminds me a lot in the deepest respect of Charles Woodson,” Rodgers said. “He has incredible ball skills. He baits you at practice. He has the competitive fire that Charles did.”
There’s no way the Packers would have finished 13-4 and earned the No. 1 seed last year if not for the miraculous addition of Douglas. His story is legendary. Or, to adapt Woodson’s “Build Your Legend” motto, Douglas built his legend.
Douglas, a third-round pick in 2017 with 29 starts under his belt, was released by the Raiders and Texans during training camp and had to settle for a spot on the Cardinals’ practice squad. With Jaire Alexander out indefinitely with a shoulder injury and the Packers desperate for a cornerback, general manager Brian Gutekunst made a once-in-a-lifetime kind of signing. Douglas had game-saving interceptions against Arizona and Cleveland and a pick-six in a showdown against the Rams.
“I can’t remember a time that I’ve been on a team that we picked up somebody at the start of the year, or whatever, and they make that big of an impact on your football team,” coach Matt LaFleur said.
As big as the signing was for the Packers last year, they hope the re-signing of Douglas will be just as important. With Alexander and Eric Stokes slated to start on the perimeter, Douglas has spent most of this summer manning the slot.
“I like it. A lot,” Douglas said. “I’ve been having fun with it. Just got to keep learning, keep doing the little stuff.”
Woodson, of course, dominated in the slot as a pass interceptor, run defender, blitzer and all-around creator of havoc. It’s a playmaking position.
“Yup. And that’s what I like,” Douglas said with a smile.
When the Packers signed Woodson in 2006, his career was going nowhere fast. He wound up building his Hall of Fame legend in Green Bay. In seven seasons, he recorded 38 interceptions, forced 15 fumbles and scored nine defensive touchdowns. Deemed a malcontent before joining the Packers, he became the emotional heartbeat of a team that won one Super Bowl and was in contention for a couple more.
When the Packers signed Douglas in 2021, his career also was going nowhere fast. He intercepted zero passes in 2019 and 2020. The god-awful Houston Texans, of all teams, didn’t think Douglas was worthy of a roster spot. With Green Bay, talent, opportunity and coaching came together. His career took flight.
Rodgers, who last year called Douglas a “superstar,” struck up a conversation with Douglas on the practice field earlier in the week. It wasn’t the first time and it won’t be the last. The skill and experience of Green Bay’s cornerbacks will be incredibly useful in getting the team’s young receivers, including rookies Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs, up and going in a retooled passing attack.
“That may have looked like me talking to him, but it was as much him talking to me,” Rodgers said. “I love picking his brain because of his ability to see the game and concepts. I think it’s important that we share both sides – me sharing with the defense, their disguise and their eye discipline and certain things that can help them. And, like I told them the other day on the receivers, you’ve got to let me know because we’re trying to win. It’s not about a competitive advantage in practice. What can I tell these young guys on the little things to improve the route running, their eye discipline and (the) little details.”
“It’s always back and forth,” Douglas said. “We always ask him what does he see when we run our coverages. Sometimes, I ask him on the side or even right after the drive is completed, I’ll ask him what I could have done better or what I should have done or anything like that. When he’s reading me, I like to know what he sees from his side of it just to help myself get better.”
Rodgers and Douglas enjoy the conversations. They also enjoy the individual battles. Rodgers’ knowledge of defenses is legendary. Douglas said he’ll intentionally line up incorrectly in hopes of fooling Rodgers.
“Most of the time, it doesn’t work. But you’ve got to give it a shot,” Douglas said with a smile.
That’s part of the “competitive fire” that Rodgers mentioned in comparing the legendary cornerback to the cornerback who had a legendary season.
“I appreciate that comment, honestly. That’s big,” Douglas said. “To even be compared or mentioned in the same sentence with one of the best, you know what I mean, so I appreciate that.”