Woods sees special opportunity
|06.04.09 at 2:03 pm ET|
FOXBOROUGH – It’s payback time for Pierre Woods.
The Patriots fourth-year linebacker has learned the hard way that big hits can come when you least expect it, whether playing outside linebacker or special teams.
He was on defense and trying to lay out Steelers tight end Heath Miller last November when he broke his own jaw trying to make an explosive hit.
“Stuff happens. Look what happened to me last year. I tried to hit somebody and knock the living crap out of somebody and broke my own jaw. It happens. It’s part of the game,” Woods said.
There was also the time in 2006, his rookie season as an undrafted linebacker out of Michigan, when current teammate Sam Aiken-then with Buffalo-rung his bell while on special teams.
“I wish Sam Aiken was on the Buffalo Bills at times because I want to get him back for what he did to me my rookie year,” Woods said. “He’s on our team I never got a chance to get him back.”
As OTAs continue for the Patriots outside Gillette Stadium this week, the consensus is that Woods is no longer just a special teams player but rather a viable option at outside linebacker.
He was playing that position when he hit Miller last season and is battling for a full-time job with the departure of Mike Vrabel to Kansas City.
“It was a big blow when Mike left,” Woods said. “It was shocking, it was a big blow but at the same time you’ve got to move on. It’s a business. The front office did what they thought was best for the team so all you can do is continue to learn and grow as a group of linebackers.”
Now, Woods could be considered the front-runner for the starting OLB job opposite Adalius Thomas, something he thought might never happen in the NFL if the Patriots hadn’t given him a chance.
“It may not happen anywhere,” Woods said this week thinking back to his first season in the NFL. “I got an opportunity to play special teams so as an undrafted guy coming out of college, and get an opportunity to play special teams for the first time.”
Since coming into the league in 2006, Woods has paid attention to the way veterans like Thomas, Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel and Eric Alexander have handled their roles on a team of leaders.
“They come out and go to work,” Woods said. “There’s not a lot of talking. They’re all about business. I think it’s a great situation to be in. The best thing is to learn from each other. You have inside linebackers, you have (Gary) Guyton, me, A-D, E-A, all the backers, we all learn from each other.
“In our meeting room, we’re all talking, enjoying each one another but when it’s time to go to work, we go to work. We just all put it together. That’s the best thing.”
Woods is hardly assuming he’ll be taking the field with a starting job in September, let alone when mini-camp begins next week.
“For me and for some other guys, it’s open competition the way I look at it,” Woods said. “I’m out there but at the same time, there’s competition. As a competitor, that’s the way you want it. Somebody to be pushing you and you pushing somebody. That’s the way I like it. The coaches haven’t said anything so where I’m at is where I’m at so I’ll continue to work hard.
“You learn a lot. Since I’ve been here, I’ve been learning from Bruschi, Vrabel, Rosevelt (Colvin), all the guys who were here before and now are gone.”
And leaders like Bruschi are paying attention to Woods at OTAs this week.
“I see the development of Pierre Woods,” Bruschi said. “You watch him out there. He’s getting better. From when he came here his first day to where he is now, he’s a much better player. And he’s got to improve even more.”
But very appropriately it’s Rodney Harrison, who announced his retirement on Wednesday, who had the biggest impact on Woods.
“Rodney Harrison would tell me that you have to be a dog,” Woods said. “He feels like the league is being soft. If you can’t hit a quarterback, what are you out here for? That’s the thing as a linebacker, a defensive player, you want to go out and hit somebody and you want their mom to feel it.”
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