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 GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) -Although it all worked out in the end, the truth is that Charles Woodson didn't really want to play in Green Bay.
Yes, the veteran cornerback came to the Packers of his own free will, signing as a free agent before the 2006 season. But as Woodson divulged on Wednesday, as the Packers prepared to play the New York Giants in the NFC Championship on Sunday, that was only because he didn't have another choice.
Everything Woodson had heard from others around the league gave him a negative opinion of playing - and living - in the NFL's smallest market.
``The talk is always this is no place for a black man, and that's just how it was,'' Woodson said. ``And you get all those reports from people who've played here and those were the thoughts going through my mind when Green Bay kept calling.''
Instead, Woodson wanted to go to Jacksonville or Tampa Bay.
But those teams apparently weren't interested in a cornerback who was near age 30 and had missed the last 10 games of the previous season because of a broken leg, so Woodson's options were limited: Green Bay or bust.
``Every time I talked to my agent, when I'm asking about all these other teams, he's saying 'Well, they haven't said anything but Green Bay called again, so what do you want to do?''' Woodson said. ``And it was almost like this is where I had to play. You know, either come to Green Bay or just sit at home and just continue to wait.''
Woodson came to Green Bay, but he certainly didn't fit in right away, feuding with new Packers coach Mike McCarthy.
``You come here and everybody has their own set of rules,'' Woodson said. ``You have Green Bay tradition, so a lot of those talks after practice weren't necessarily good talks. But we talked through them, we met a couple times in private and tried to talk through things. (I) had to get some fines and that sort of thing.''
So what was he fined for?
``Everything,'' Woodson chuckled.
A year later, Woodson says everything - the town, the people, the organization - has worked out better than expected.
He has reached an understanding with McCarthy that includes allowing him to often sit out midweek practices to rest his nagging injuries.
``I think he understands that for me, during the week, no matter what's going on - you know, whether I'm hurt, whether it's a turf toe, whether it's a knee or any other situation that's going on in my life or with the team - on Sunday I'm coming to play,'' Woodson said. ``I think he understands that.''
Woodson had four interceptions this season, second on the team to Atari Bigby's five, and has wowed teammates and opponents with his ability to play man coverage.
``It's just a new beginning for him, a new start, a new home,'' Packers safety Nick Collins said. ``Right now, he's loving it, like we're one step away from the big dance. Him coming over here was a great asset to us.''
For Woodson, the chance to play a key role on a winning team has allowed him to erase the hit his reputation took from his days with the Oakland Raiders.
``The talk coming out of Oakland was, 'This guy's lost a step. He can't play anymore, injury prone,''' Woodson said. ``Which I did have the injuries, but if anybody wants to go back and look at any film of me playing at Oakland, I've always played the way I'm playing now. But to be here and to be on a winning team again, people will start to notice again the way that I play the game and it's just kind of like people are getting the chance to know me as a football player again.''
Woodson's even stepping out on the town in Green Bay these days, such as it is.
``I've been out and a lot of what I've heard about, it just hasn't happened,'' Woodson said. ``Of course there's going to be situations where you're out and people want autographs and that type of thing, but from my experience being here, the two years I've been here, it's not been like people have told me it would be. I've been able to go out in restaurants and sit down and eat in peace and it's been great. So my story of Green Bay, the people, would be a little different than what was told to me.''

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