Packers Q&A with Charles Woodson and Al Harris

Duo will join team's Hall of Fame this coming spring
Bill Huber

Cornerbacks Charles Woodson and Al Harris will form the Packers Hall of Fame’s 50th induction class. On April 18, the former teammates will become the 163rd and 164th players inducted.

In 2006, Woodson grudgingly agreed to a free-agent contract with the Packers only because nobody else wanted him. In seven dominant seasons, he intercepted 38 passes and broke up 115 and became an emotional leader. He was selected to four consecutive Pro Bowls from 2008 through 2011 — including NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2009 — and led the league in interceptions in 2009 and 2011.

Acquired for a second-round pick in 2003, Harris played eight seasons for Green Bay, tallying 14 interceptions and 108 passes defensed. He earned back-to-back Pro Bowl selections in 2007 and 2008.

Al Harris

Q: What did it mean for your career to be traded to Green Bay?

A: It was a big impact on my career. The year prior to being traded, I went to (then-Eagles coach) Andy Reid probably once a day for about two weeks after every practice asking to be traded. He really didn’t understand why I wanted to be traded. I just told him, ‘Coach, when you were an assistant coach, you were aspiring to be a head coach. Well, I’m a third corner and I can’t make the Pro Bowl as a third corner.’

He told me one day after practice, ‘Al, at the end of the year, I’m going to do what’s best for the team, and I’m going to do what’s best for you.’ The night before the trade, he called me and told me the teams, and he said, ‘Any preference that you have?’ I was like, ‘No, not really.’ I asked his advice, and he said, ‘I’ve been in Green Bay. I know Mike Sherman and, if it was me and I was advising my son, I would go to Green Bay.’ Once I got there, I tipped my hat to Mike Sherman for pulling the trigger on that trade.

Q: Did you know at the time that your interception and touchdown in the playoff game against Seattle (Jan. 4, 2004 in Green Bay) would become such an iconic moment?

A: I had no clue. No clue. Honestly, I was just happy I caught the ball. There’s guys who played with me who would tell you my ball skills weren’t that good.

Q: Do you have another moment that sticks out?

A: A lot of the best moments there in Green Bay were being out at practice, scaring the young wideouts before practices, telling them which guy I want to get cut. ‘Hey, I’m going to get you cut today. I’m going to get you cut tomorrow.’ It’s that whole experience. I thought it was great.

Q: What was it like playing with Charles?

A: It was great, honestly. Once Charles got there, they realized if they didn’t throw the ball over there, now I have my chance at the opportunities, which was awesome. That was big for me. To have someone on the other side to push you in practice, not so much as verbally but just by working hard, I thought was great.

Q: How do you want to be remembered?

A: For my work ethic, honestly. I took a lot of pride being in shape. ‘You’re not going to outwork Al.’ I think that’s the biggest honor that I came to work every day, every game, no complaining. I put the helmet on and covered who’s in front of me.

Charles Woodson

Q: What was the turning point for you in Green Bay after a rocky start?

A: The decision was really made for me, to be honest. There wasn’t a whole lot of suitors out there for me as a free agent. The Green Bay Packers came with a package, and to quote the movie, they showed me the money. They really wanted me there and showed that they wanted me there. So, that was the initial decision-making process I went through with me going to Green Bay.

Then once I got there, it was kind of rough at the beginning, because I really didn’t quite want to be there, and I just couldn’t wrap my mind around the fact that I didn’t have anybody who wanted me on their team. I was really sour about that, so it kind of dictated the way I interacted with a lot of people around there — really standoffish, got into some verbal arguments and things like that.

When I look back on it, I kind of feel like it was my way of trying to get out of the situation. But I’m really glad I didn’t get out of it because it turned out the way it turned out. There were a lot of people along the way. Al Harris was a big part of that. He was a guy that, when I got there, I knew somebody around there that I could feed off of, and he introduced me to his family. He was one of the guys I was around during holidays with his family. I finally got comfortable being there, and once I started playing and started making plays, everything kind of took care of itself from there.

Q: Even though you suffered a broken collarbone in the game, what was it like tossing confetti on yourself at the Super Bowl?

A: Man, it was like, ‘finally.’ I had gone to one Super Bowl; of course we lost that one, and I think when you go to a Super Bowl, you automatically expect the next year you’ll be in the hunt again, and that wasn’t the case. The next year in Oakland, I think we were 4-12 and never had a winning season after that.

It was a long road to get back to that point, and when you see me in that sling throwing confetti on myself and on my son and on my family, that was the moment for me, because finally I had gotten a Super Bowl championship. Literally, I used to have this reoccurring dream that I would be going to a party and I’d get to the door and the bouncer at the door would ask me, ‘Hey, show me the ring,’ and I didn’t have the ring, so I couldn’t get in the party. It’s funny because I never had that dream again once I won the Super Bowl, so that’s what that moment was all about.

Q: What was it like playing with Al?

A: It was special, man. I think what he mentioned before about how he wanted to be remembered and talking about the work ethic and him mentioning about nobody outworking him. I remember Speedy (then-defensive backs coach Lionel Washington) told me that when I first got to Green Bay, he said, ‘Man, one thing about Al, he’s not going to let you outwork him,’ and I noticed that right off the bat going out to practice that I was with another guy out there on the corner that was going to work as hard as I was going to work.

I remember times when we would go out to practice, and we would talk to each other about what kind of day it was going to be. We would decide whether or not it was going to be a work day or whether or not we were going to work on some of the other little things. What the work day meant, we were going to take all the reps. In every period, we were taking all the reps. I remember the young guys would be like, ‘C’mon, man, we got to get reps, too.’ Me and Al would look at them and be like, ‘I don’t know what to tell you but you can’t do that today.’”

Q: What does it mean to be inducted with Al?

A: I think that was the only way it could be done. If I was going in with anybody, it had to be Al. We spent countless days and practices and hours together, pushing each other to be the best players we could be out there on the field. Each of us took great pride in what we did, each of us took great pride in going out there and trying to shut the other team down, shut whatever receiver down that was in front of you.

I know the Hall of Fame was figuring out who was going in and once they called me and told me it was Al, I was like, ‘That’s the way it’s supposed to be,’ so it’s great to be able to share this moment with him and his family. I spent a lot of time with him and his family over the years, and that’s going to be a great moment for both of us.

Q: There’s a good chance you’re going to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2021. Do you think you’d be going to Canton if not for your time in Green Bay?

A: Yeah, I think so, because if I wasn’t in Green Bay, I would’ve been somewhere else. I would’ve made my mark somewhere else. But it just so happened that during that transition from Oakland, I was able to make my stop in Green Bay and go there and do some great things. In that respect, it doesn’t happen without Green Bay, but my career was going to continue somewhere. I don’t know where it would’ve been, but I would’ve made that mark somewhere else.