It isn’t easy to lose track of a 6-foot-3, 327-pound man.
Damien Woody played through pain but rarely practiced in the weeks leading up to his mid-December surgery to repair his MCL. The 12-year veteran lineman would head to the training room to receive therapy when his teammates emptied out of the locker room for the field. His quiet leadership and intensity was missed to the point that a month ago, Woody’s teammates replaced the placard above his locker with the name ‘Waldo’ in a bit of hijinks aimed at their missing teammate.
The homage to the cartoon character “Where’s Waldo” was not lost on Woody then, but his Jets teammates were excited to have the lineman back in practice yesterday for the first time in three weeks.
“It’s really good to have Damien back, there is that comfort level out there,” right guard Brandon Moore said. “I think now going into the playoffs, just knowing and having him back as we put a new system into place for this week’s game, it’s good for all of us on the line.”
Woody’s return only lifts an offensive line that is peaking at the right time, averaging 4.7 yards per carry in the last three games. Quarterback Mark Sanchez, meanwhile, has been sacked just once during that stretch.
While he was limited in practice yesterday, Woody participated in both team drills and the full team session involving the first team offense. He was limited in the number of reps he participated in but complained only of soreness associated with a player coming back from injury. This was the most extensive practice for Woody in well over a month since first injuring his knee in mid-November.
Having clinched a playoff berth in Week 16, the Jets were able to rest a number of starters this past Sunday in their 38-7 win over Buffalo. Woody was one of the several veteran players who didn’t suit up for the Jets in the regular season finale. If he needed to, however, Woody said that he would have been able to play, perhaps a sign that his injured knee is progressing better than anticipated.
“I don’t know. If I had to do it, probably, I could have probably done it on Sunday,” Woody said. “Luckily for us, that situation didn’t come up. It just gave me extra time to get out here and rehab a little more -- get a little more healthy.”
And for the Jets, that means that ‘Waldo’ has been found again, on the field, right where he belongs. Woody’s return to practice is on schedule and he aims to do more reps each day, leading up to Saturday’s game against the Colts. The goal was always, Woody says, to return to the field in time for the playoffs.
“That’s what I’ve been working toward the whole time, behind the scenes, doing my thing,” Woody said.
Favre doesn’t rub Jets players the wrong way
Another week, another big game, another scandal.
The Jets responded yesterday to a lawsuit filed by two massage therapists claiming they lost their jobs after rejecting inappropriate advances from Brett Favre.
"Unfortunately, the plaintiffs never reported the allegations to the Jets, either during or after the conclusion of their work. The case against the Jets is completely without merit, and we look forward to defending the matter in court, where we are confident that the Jets will prevail," the team said in a statement.
All this comes heading into Saturday’s wild card meeting at Indianapolis, which ended the Jets Super Bowl dreams in last year’s AFC championship. The Jets have had a decade’s worth of distractions this season alone as they seek to duplicate last year’s run through the playoffs from the sixth seed.
At this point in the season, it has become routine for a team more practiced at dodging questions about scandal then in answering for their performance on the field. It’s more of the same for the Jets who have gotten used to questions about anything and everything except for their play on the field and their 11-5 record.
“I don’t even know about it to be honest with you. It’s all just a distraction,” defensive lineman Mike DeVito said. “We’ve done a pretty good job in here of taking care of business. When we come here, we can shut all those things out, all the distractions and everyone talking. It’s about football here for us.”
The latest controversy and lawsuit comes at a bad time for the Jets to take their eyes off the ball. Not only are the Colts the team that killed the Jets playoff hopes last year, the AFC South Champions are arguably the most prolific offense in the league despite being decimated by injuries. They also boast a 6-2 record at home and head coach Rex Ryan holds a lifetime 1-5 record against the Colts Peyton Manning.
This season, though, Gang Green is 4-1 after week-long scandals -- everything from alleged text messages to Jenn Sterger to foot-fetish videos.
“It’s not something we talk about or need to talk about. We’re focused and this doesn’t impact who we are or what we do come Sunday,” right guard Brandon Moore said. “You may read about it in the newspaper or guys might talk about it but in the end, what does it have to deal with the Colts? And that’s our focus right now, the Colts, and nothing else."