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FIRST PERSON: ROD WOODSON - OUR DEFENSE WANTS TO BE REMEMBERED

Wednesday - 8/8/2001

Rod WoodsonBy Rod Woodson

As told to Jim Gigliotti

For 13 seasons, Rod Woodson toiled as one of the NFLís best defensive backs and earned a reputation as one of its fiercest competitors and finest all-around athletes. A nine-time Pro Bowl selection, he is the only player to make the annual all-star game as a cornerback, safety, and kick returner. He shares the NFL record with 9 career interception returns for touchdowns, and leads all active players with 58 career interceptions.

Heís also played on eight teams that reached the postseason, including six with Pittsburgh (where he played from 1987-1996), one with San Francisco (1997), and one with Baltimore (2000). But until the Ravensí 34-7 victory over the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXXV last season, Woodsonís fourteenth year in the NFL, he never savored the taste of a championship.

Last spring, Baltimore signed Woodson to a new five-year contract, and the 36-year-old was as anxious as a rookie to start the new season. ďHis place in history is among the all-time best,Ē Ravens coach Brian Billick says.

ďRodís zest to be the best both on and off the field helps our guys tremendously,Ē says Marvin Lewis, the coordinator of Baltimoreís record-setting defense. ďHe keeps the calm in the huddle in the heat of battle.Ē

Iím hungrier this season. I really want to do it again. Iím working harder, knowing that winning back-to-back Super Bowls is a very, very difficult thing to do. As the defending champions, weíre the team that everyone is out to get.

Plus, our defense wants to be remembered as one of the outstanding defenses in the history of the NFL. If we want that to happen, we have to have another dominating season. We have to be able to do it again. Thatís the mark of a true champion.

There are several things that made our defense so good last year. First, there was a belief in the system that defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis put in. He did an outstanding job, and all of the assistants did a great job, too, of getting us prepared for each opponent week in and week out.

On the field, I think our team speed really made the difference. From our front four to our three linebackers to our secondary, we had speed. When you have that much speed, the field canít be spread too far for your defense to cover. Opposing offenses canít take advantage that way, and it frees your defense to make some plays that other defenses might not be able to make.

Winning the Super Bowl was just a great feeling. You never know just how many opportunities youíre going to have, and I think I may appreciate it a little more because Iím older. When I came to Baltimore [in 1998], I knew we had a lot of young talent, but I never knew how far we could get.

Obviously, any time you can put everything together in a playoff runóand we had it all come together for us on offense, defense, and special teams in those four gamesóthatís a tremendous accomplishment. I played in the league fourteen years and never had been on a team that was able to do that. It takes a lot of hard work, a lot of dedication, and a whole lot of people coming together and working toward the same goal.

The offseason, though, was really no different from any other. You make it what it is. You know, I donít like to do a lot of those other things [such as endorsements and appearances]. I like being with my family. If you want the distractions, they are there for you. If you donít want them, you donít need them. Frankly, the distractions are there whether you win the Super Bowl, but, obviously, when you win there are more opportunities. I think itís just a matter of choosing wisely what you do and do not want to do.




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