|Jets' Woody feeling comfortable at right tackle|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 06 August 2008 22:11|
``It was a great learning experience,'' the big right tackle said. ``Things happen for a reason.''
Somewhat overlooked by the high-profile signing of left guard Alan Faneca, Woody was an important acquisition by the Jets after a sometimes tumultuous four-year stint with Detroit.
New York signed him to a five-year, $25.5 million deal, and plugged him in at right tackle - a position he hadn't played since high school until the final five games of last season.
``It's working out pretty good,'' Woody said. ``I'm still trying to get acclimated to everything with the offense, but that's going to come with each day that we're out here practicing. So far, so good.''
That's a far cry from what he was feeling early last season. Woody took a pay cut and found himself on the sideline for the Lions after three games, a healthy scratch for the first time in his career. The former Pro Bowl center lost his job at right guard and was on the inactive list for three games, but never sulked.
Instead, he remained optimistic and reinvented himself - again.
``When one door closes, another one opens,'' said the 10-year veteran who has played every spot on the line except left tackle. ``I just stepped right in and that's how I landed here. It's about being prepared for any situation and the opportunity came up.''
Woody, who helped lead New England to two Super Bowl titles, worked his way back onto the field as a reserve and eventually into the Lions' starting lineup by learning - and excelling at - the right tackle position.
``I had total confidence in my abilities and the things I could go out there and do on the football field,'' Woody said. ``When I got there on the field, I just made sure there was going to be no question about what the situation was going to be. I just took full advantage of it, played really, really well down the stretch and here I am.''
He sure is, and he'll get his first chance to work with his new linemates in a game Thursday when the Jets play their preseason opener at Cleveland.
``It's all about fine-tuning technique and just getting more playing experience,'' Woody said.
When Woody hit the free-agent market, his versatility made him an attractive option. He turned out to be the perfect fit for the Jets and coach Eric Mangini, who was familiar with Woody from their days with the Patriots.
``I knew what type of guy he was, what type of competitor he was and all those things, but that was really at the center and guard position,'' Mangini said. ``As we were looking at the tackle market, seeing Damien out there playing tackle, you always wonder, 'Can the guy transition to the new position and do it well?'''
Mangini, whose wife, Julie, is friends with Woody's wife, Nicole, was sold after watching tape of the big man's performances against San Diego and Dallas.
``He did a great job against some very difficult teams to defend against,'' Mangini said.
Not bad for a guy who was learning on the job.
``A coach told me a long time ago, the more you can do, the more valuable you become,'' Woody said. ``I really prided myself on being able to play multiple positions. When I first signed here, one of the questions that was asked was what position will you play? Everybody pretty much knew I was going to play right tackle, but my response was: 'The position that's going to help the team win.' Because you never know what's going to happen.''
Woody sprained a foot in the fifth game of the 2006 season, was placed on injured reserve and ballooned to around 380 pounds. In order to get back into playing shape, Woody went to the Duke Weight Loss Center in Durham, N.C., and shed 40-plus pounds from his 6-foot-3 frame.
``That's a lifestyle,'' said Woody, who's now 335 pounds. ``It was just a situation where you've got to come to grips as far as who you are and what your deficiencies are as a person. It was a great experience and it's something that's going to carry over for the rest of my life.''
Woody's versatility has helped prolong his career, and he's hoping this stop leads to the type of success he had during his first few seasons.
``When you have the experience that I had in New England, you remember everything about it,'' he said. ``It was a great time, but now I'm here in New York and it's a whole different program. Even though there are a lot of similarities, I'm just trying to help this team win and win championships. At the end of the day, that's what it's all about.''