With the Oakland Raiders first day of Organized Team Activities in the books, the team has really begun their preparation for the 2014 season. One of the best things about the NFL is teams can improve greatly in just one offseason. That is the goal of the Raiders this year. The team is coming off consecutive 4-12 seasons, but has upgraded the roster significantly. That has prompted new Raiders defensive end/ linebacker LaMarr Woodley to believe playoffs are in the cards for Oakland in 2014.
“Anybody on this team, the objective, and any sport and anything you play, should always be the top and say, ‘man, I want to win the Super Bowl,'” LaMarr Woodley said. “Anything less, I wouldn’t want you on my team. So when they ask me, ‘what do you think about this team,’ I think we’re a playoff team. That’s the winning attitude. And that’s the winning attitude I think each guy has on this team and that should be the attitude you have. If not, I wouldn’t want to play with you.”
Oakland will have a brutal road to that goal, but the confidence and attitude displayed by Woodley is exactly what the Raiders need. They spent this offseason bringing in veterans like Woodley, Justin Tuck, Tarell Brown, and Carlos Rogers, who have Super Bowl experience. Woodley played in two with the Pittsburgh Steelers and was part of a championship in 2009. The only way the Raiders can dig out of their slump is by playing with that confidence and chip on their shoulder.
Woodley comes to Oakland with a different role than he had in Pittsburgh. In the Steelers' 3-4 defense, Woodley was asked to drop back in coverage, which is not his strong suit. With the Raiders, he will move to defensive end and his primarily role will be getting after the quarterback. Woodley showed those abilities amassing 44 sacks in four seasons from 2008-2011.
“I feel like just being in a 4-3 defense gives me more opportunities to rush the passer,” Woodley said. “Playing in a 3-4 defense I was asked to cover receivers and tight ends more. Putting my hand back in the dirt just allows me to go forward than backwards.”
His stats dropped the past two seasons which culminated in a release and being signed by Oakland as a free agent. Now, he has a chip on his shoulder to compete. He attributes the down seasons to injuries which are behind him.
“Last year was calf injuries,” Woodley said. “The year before that I had a high ankle sprain but they kind of blamed it on my hamstring, but it was a high ankle sprain injury, things you can’t control. But calves and hamstrings that I have to take responsibility for and work on it. And that’s what I did this offseason and I’m ready to go right now and haven’t been having those issues.”
Woodley's comments will be everywhere and some people will believe they are ridiculous. However, the more important take away is that Woodley is a leader. Those comments show an attitude that should be contagious throughout the locker room. Every player will be accountable to step their game up to achieve that goal.
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