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Tuesday - 10/24/2000

In a sport as physically demanding as football, most players would probably be happy to play four or five years in the National Football League. But for Ravens safety Rod Woodson, he is currently in his 14th season and enjoying every minute of it.

�It�s really just God-given talent, and secondly hard work,� said Woodson on his longevity in the NFL. �It�s working hard in the off- season, staying in shape and getting prepared each off-season; trying to maintain the shape that you are in coming off the season, and not getting too much out of shape.

�In the season opener of the 1995 season, Rod suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, yet he was able to return and play in Super Bowl XXX against Dallas. Rod became the first player in history to suffer an injury of that type and return in the same year. Rod believes his work ethic and determination were the main reasons for his returning in time to play in the Super Bowl.

�Going into that season I think I was in really good shape and I think that helped me out a great deal to recover from the injury,� said Woodson.

The Ft. Wayne, IN native leads all active players with 57 interceptions. Of those 57 interceptions, nine have been returned for touchdowns. Although some of his interceptions were the result of bad passes, Rod explained that you still have to work for those type of interceptions also.

�I would say the vast majority of them you have to work for,� said Woodson. �Even the bad passes, you have to break on the ball and get the interception. Some have been thrown right to me, and if I wasn�t positioned at least in front of the receiver, or by the receiver, then I wouldn�t have gotten them.

�But for the most part, it has been easy. God has just blessed me for whatever reason with a lot of athletic talent, and it did come easy. But I think somewhere along the line, I figured out that if you work hard and are committed to the game and understand the game, you can put yourself on another level of players, and that�s what I�ve been trying to do.�

While Rod, (who became the first player in NFL history to make it to the Pro Bowl as a cornerback, kick returner and at safety), is constantly trying to take his game to the next level, it has been great for younger players such as cornerback Chris McAlister to have the type of veteran leadership that Woodson brings.

�It�s been great, besides just being on the field with Rod,� said McAlister. �When you are out there, he starts talking to you during the play, before the play starts, letting you know what to expect. It kind of changes how you strategize and game plan against the person that you are playing. He gives you a better sense of what to expect and I tend to react a lot differently when I hear from him.�

While Rod is very serious at what he does in practice and on the field, among his teammates Rod is also known as one of the teams many jokesters and pranksters.

�In the locker room, Rod is a funny guy, cracking jokes-never really seems too serious,� said McAlister. �He mingles and talks to everybody and doesn�t keep himself isolated.�

Said Woodson:�You have to stay relaxed. You can�t be so serious about the game and up tight that you lose focus. Sometimes you can get so nervous trying to do too much and overcompensate for something and make mistakes. I think you have to go out there relaxed, have fun and enjoy it. Once you start doing that and flying around to the football, a lot of good things happen for players.�

For a guy who enjoys playing defense, Rod has been lucky enough to play for teams that had talented defensive units while he played for both Pittsburgh and San Francisco. Rod believes the Ravens� defensive unit is no different, if not better, in terms of talent.

�I�ve been saying since day one that I think the jury is still out on us. We�ve played eight games so far and we�ve played well the first part of the season. If we can just be consistent and take care of our business and play the way we are capable of playing, then this could probably be the best defense that I�ve played on, but we still have to do that.�