When Woodson Clocked Cutler
By Walter Rhein
Special to Packerland Titletown USA
To my knowledge, nobody ever accused Charles Woodson of being a dirty player. However, he was as physical as the NFL allows and didn’t stand for any funny business on the gridiron. In a 2011 contest against the Saints, Woodson drew an unsportsmanlike conduct for throwing an uppercut at TE David Thomas. He could have been thrown out, but Woodson was especially adept at making a punch seem like an incidental push. Even the refs seemed to know you don’t eject Charles Woodson from a contest, and as long as Woodson made the show of disguising his retaliations, the gentleman’s agreement was in play.
But then came Jay Cutler.
I was watching the Sept. 13, 2012, contest between the Packers and Bears with some friends, when one of the strangest incidents I’d ever seen played out on the screen. The incident was strange because, as egregious as it was, the announcers completely failed to address it. I don’t know if this was a case of “players’ code” keeping the announcers from stating the obvious, but something was surely going on.
During this contest at Lambeau, Cutler was being especially petulant. I remember sitting in my friend’s living room, holding my beer, and watching Cutler repeatedly shuffle kick his linemen.
“He did it again,” I’d say, pointing out the bizarre act. We’d all shake our head, “typical Cutler.”
At the end of every play that one of Cutler’s linemen happened to be laying at his feet, he’d kind of shuffle over and repeatedly kick the guy in the back. It wasn’t a super overt act, and the lineman would always leap to his feet like a cowed dog, but it was bizarre to witness. It was almost as if Culter felt some toddler rage, and needed to have his dominance over the team continually reassured. If King Joffrey Baratheon from Game of Thrones was named QB of the Bears, that was how I imagined he would act.
This kept happening. A lineman would valiantly defend Cutler. Cutler would throw a pass either thirty yards over his wide receiver’s head, or directly into the numbers of a GB defensive back (he’s only accurate when throwing to the opposition). Then Cutler would shuffle over and land a bunch of kicks in the middle of his lineman’s back.
It might have continued until the final buzzer… but Cutler made a near fatal mistake.
During one series, by random chance, it was not a downtrodden Bears’ lineman that happened to land at the feet of Smokin’ Jay. No, on that occasion, the prostrate player was none other than nine-time pro-bowler, Super Bowl Champion and 2009 NFL Defensive Player of the Year Charles Woodson.
Almost as if by habit, Cutler shuffled over and landed a series of pitiful little passive-aggressive kicks on the great 21’s back.
“Oh no!” I screamed.
“What!” Everyone else in the room yelled. They were so focused on the nachos they’d missed the post-play shenanigans.
“Cutler just kicked Woodson!”
I was terrified because I knew retaliation usually leads to ejection, but I wasn’t prepared for what was about to happen.
The result of Cutler’s ill-advised act was electric. In a display of athleticism rarely seen this side of a panther hunting on the savanna, Woodson instantly flew into the air. It was like a nuclear bomb had been set off with a cattle prod. Woodson went from prone to standing without even pushing an arm against the ground. His whole body just snapped like a recurve bow, and suddenly he stood chest-to-chest with Cutler. He cocked his arm back and punched the Bears’ QB in the face!
“Whoa! Woodson just punched Cutler in the face!”
I froze, waiting to see a hailstorm of flags come thundering down from the heavens. I waited to see a horde of genetically-enhanced Spartan soldiers be called up from the depths of Lambeau to attempt to escort the great Charles Woodson from the field. I awaited the call of the announcers to say, “Oh, he shouldn’t have retaliated… he’s gone.”
But none of that happened.
As I said before, Woodson is great at disguising a punch to look like an incidental shove. This is a guy who never tackled a ball carrier without punching the ball first. Sometimes the result was a fumble, but if not, he still managed to grasp the arm and make the tackle, which is basically impossible. But that’s why Woodson was great, he had hands quicker than the human eye. Everybody seemed to give him the benefit of the doubt. My only conclusion was that the punch looked sufficiently like a shove for the refs to allow it.
“Woodson and Cutler are going at it again,” the announcers finally said in a sleepy drawl.
“What! This is the single greatest altercation in the history of football, are you guys missing what’s happening here?”
My room full of friends just watched the screen with mouths wide open, nobody could believe this was happening.
Cutler was standing there with his typical “bear with a head cold” expression, but Woodson was howling. All of a sudden, all of the injustice in the universe concentrated into a single burning ember to be placed in the middle of Charles Woodson’s back right where he couldn’t reach it.
He was raging.
You could kind of hear his words echoing in the background. The announcers’ mics, up in their booth, hundreds of yards away from the field, picked up the tirade. It was garbled, but raw fury had never been so effectively conveyed.
There was no, “He’s going to have to watch out or he’ll get a penalty,” from the announcers. They just watched in silence. There seemed to be an awareness that something terrible was about to happen, but the hope was that by ignoring it, it might go away.
Woodson started prowling, overcome by fury. Eventually, he made his way back to the other side of the line of scrimmage to await the beginning of the next play, but he never stopped talking.
About then, Cutler started wearing a kind of dumb grin. As if, for a brief second, he had deluded himself into thinking that he’d gotten the better of Woodson. He seemed to be unaware that his very existence was in danger of being erased from the pages of history.
On the next snap, Woodson was ready to dive in and disintegrate Cutler into a puff of smoke and a couple of subatomic particles. But he slipped jumping off the line. I can’t remember what happened to Cutler, but as the play ended, his dim bulb ignited. He seemed to realize, “It’s not to my advantage to work Charles Woodson up into a homicidal fury, I need to address this.” The call of self-preservation can be heard by even the most basic of living things.
Charles Woodson was back on his feet, still howling with the thirst of a thousand-year hunger. At that point, Cutler walked over to Woodson to try to calm him down.
By then, Woodson had contained the rage and was making it work for him, so he had no interest in talking to Cutler. But Woodson is an honorable guy, and with a guy like that, you can’t help but find the fury tempered in the light of a sincere apology.
Cutler was sincere. The fear of death instills sincerity.
After that the rage subsided, and Woodson continued at his typical super-human energy level. The raging cataclysm that threatened to implode upon Jay Cutler and leave only a black smear on the legendary tundra had burned out. But Woodson’s typical greatness was more than sufficient to win the day.
Cutler would go on to throw four interceptions and the Packers would win 23-10, but nobody on Sportscenter or in any newspaper recap of the game mentioned the kick/punch combo. If you do a web search for “Cutler kicks Woodson” you’ll find a video of the moment that set it off. Unfortunately, all the greatness happens in the ensuing minutes after the video ends.
Packer fans are currently enjoying an era of all-time quarterback play, but there’s something special about a next-level corner. We used to say, “A quarter of the earth is covered by land, the rest is covered by Charles Woodson.” The great players impose their will on the players, the fans, the announcers and the refs. Charles Woodson was indisputably in that class.
About the Author: Walter Rhein is the author of ‘Beyond Birkie Fever’ and ‘Reckless Traveler,’ both available on Amazon. Reach him for questions or comments at: WalterRhein@gmail.com.
Here’s the kick:
Link: Same old Jay
“We understand that Jay is excited about his new weapons, but it’s the same-old Jay. We don’t need luck; we just need to be in position, Jay will throw us the ball.,” Charles Woodson.
Gem in this one, Rainn Wilson (Dwight Schrute from the Office) tweet in the quote bar: “Jay Cutler needs a hug. First a spanking. Then a hug.”