When the Packers said goodbye to Charles Woodson this offseason, they were doing more than releasing one of their starting safeties from last season.
They were also bidding farewell to the player who had been the leader of their defense for several years, opening the role up for someone else in 2013 and beyond. Linebacker Clay Matthews expects to be that guy.
Matthews has been a strong player for the Packers pretty much upon arrival from USC, which is why the team signed him to a five-year extension this offseason. Matthews believes that the extension carries a responsibility beyond continuing at that same level of production.
“I think it’s just the natural progression with leadership on this team,” Matthews said, via Rob Reischel of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “Obviously the more comfortable I am in the scheme, which I very much am, the longer I’m here, the more tenured I am, the more I have to take that leadership opportunity. In light of what has happened in the off-season with Charles Woodson departing, the new contract shows trust in my leadership and ability on the field. So you’re going to see that, especially in light of the last few years for our defense. We’re trying to turn it around and get this thing back to where we were when we had the Super Bowl run.”
Strong leadership is important, but the Packers defense is going to succeed or fail based on the way their players perform on the field. If cornerback Tramon Williams can regain his old form and linebacker Nick Perry makes an impact in his return from injury, for example, the unit will be better than it was a year ago. If not, Matthews’ leadership will only wind up meaning so much.