Tennessee Titans linebacker Wesley Woodyard has done a few things in his 10 years as an NFL linebacker.
Last week against Baltimore, Woodyard did something he had never done in all his years of football: He piled up 20 tackles. The veteran linebacker originally was credited with 14 tackles on the official stat sheet. But after Titans coaches reviewed the film, they credited Woodyard with 20 stops.
“I don’t think I ever had 20 tackles before,” Woodyard said. “I’ve gotten close to it, but I think in college the most I ever had was 18.”
Woodyard leads the Titans (5-3) with 102 tackles, seemingly having turned back the clock at the age of 31. After being a two-down linebacker for a good part of his time in Tennessee, Woodyard is back to being a three-down linebacker. He is staying on the field in obvious passing situations after being subbed out quite a bit the past couple seasons.
“Honestly, I’ve just had the opportunity to get on the field more,” Woodyard said. “The way I look at it, I was getting about 20 snaps a game last year and still coming out with halfway decent snaps. The key is to just get opportunities and take advantage of it.”
The Titans’ coaches certainly have noticed, and that is why Woodyard finds himself playing more on defense than in years past.
“I think it’s just a matter of how productive he’s been. It’s been hard to keep him off the field. That’s not rare, it’s just hard to take him off the field, he’s making so many plays,” Titans coach Mike Mularkey said.
Woodyard’s resurgence began in the offseason. He changed trainers, his diet and his sleeping habits, and he has carried all of that into the regular season.
“I trained down at Disney Wide World of Sports with coach Tom Shaw,” Woodyard said. “I’m plant-based now. I don’t eat any meat or anything. My sleeping habits have changed.”
Those may be the hardest with three children: “It’s a blessing if you’re in (bed) before 10. But I try to make sure I close my eyes before 10:30,” Woodyard said.
The linebacker insists taking advantage of the chances to play has been the biggest difference as the Titans prepare to host Cincinnati (3-5). He’s playing with a chip on his shoulder again, the same way he did as an undrafted rookie from Kentucky when signing with the Denver Broncos in 2008.
“It’s just the way the NFL goes. I tell guys this all the time, ‘I’m an undrafted guy. You just have to take advantage of every opportunity you get, and not complain about when you’re not in the game,'” Woodyard said.
Woodyard has learned to shrug off the naysayers.
“Of course, it’s something every year. It’s a new label put on players every year and it’s something for you to tear down.” he said. “Don’t let anybody put you in a box about what you can do. I’ve always felt I could play and make plays and be effective on the field, and now I’m getting the opportunity.”