I've heard some pretty loose interpretations of the word "fat" before, but the version the Steelers apply to their outside linebackers, according to Lamarr Woodley, may take the cake (just don't eat it. Chow down on these ice chips instead.)
They parted ways with their former Pro Bowl outside linebacker who was a major part of their dominating defense that helped lead them to Super Bowl runs in recent years. All that wasn't good enough for the Steelers. They apparently want their outside linebackers on the cover of Cosmo.
"In Pittsburgh they said I was [over]weight, I was out of shape, fat anyway, so I didn't really have to do much (gaining weight) at all." Said Woodley. "I've been this size my whole career. So, just now, the only reason that I weighed too much in Pittsburgh is because I was asked to chase guys like your size down the field. And now I'm playing defensive end, I don't have to be... It doesn't matter, because the main thing is getting after the quarterback."
After Woodley was released by the Steelers, the Raiders basically said ‘So, Cosmo says you're fat? Well, I ain't down with that' and they signed him to be a cornerstone of their newly rebuilt defense.
For this 6-2, 266-pounder, his weight is no longer in question. The newest question is whether he can successfully make the switch from outside linebacker to defensive end - a concern that is a bit overblown.
"It's an adjustment, but I don't know if it's as big of an adjustment as maybe everybody wants to make it out to be," Dennis Allen said of going from outside linebacker in a 3-4 to defensive end in a 4-3. "This guy's a pro, he understands football. There's only so many alignments that you can have, whether you're playing defensive end or you're playing an outside linebacker, you're still going to be asked to do the same type of things."
Woodley claims not only isn't the position switch a big adjustment, it isn't an adjustment at all for him.
"Everything is the same to me," Woodley added. "Just in this defense I don't drop back as much. Playing the defensive end, you rush more. When I was playing outside linebacker, everything was the same as far as playing against the run, rushing the quarterback, gaps responsibility, but just playing outside linebacker, you were asked to cover receivers and tight ends and get into the flats a little bit more."
From the outside looking in, it would seem the switch would be fairly easy for him, if not ideal. He was always known for his pass rush abilities far more than his coverage skills. As a defensive end, he would simply be able to focus on doing what he does best - get after the quarterback.
That's basically how Woodley sees it as well.
"I think it plays to my strengths," he said. "My whole life I've pretty much played defensive end. All through college I played defensive end and when I got drafted, that's when I switched to outside linebacker. I just had to make the adjustments to that. It wasn't easy at first but now going back to defensive end is going back to what I've normally been doing."
"When you're playing defensive end you don't have to think as much. . . it's strictly getting after the quarterback, containing the run, and making sure if you have to force the ball back inside, force the ball inside. The only thing you have to do is (think about) how you're gonna hit the quarterback."
One area which showed up on the practice field over the past couple practices is his run stopping ability. It's yet another area where he is better off with some weight on him in this defense.
Early in camp Dennis Allen said when the Raiders put pads on, it will be the first time they play real football. It makes more sense that Woodley would begin to show up once there is some contact happening. Once they take the field for a game, he can begin formulating how he'll hit the quarterback.
Then he can have his cake and eat it too. Without anyone telling him he's fat.