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November 24, 2005
Woody Gives Thanks For The Big Payday
BY: Bob George/BosSports.net

DETROIT -- Here is a study in two separate hypothetical Thanksgiving Day dinner tables.

The Tedy Bruschi home in North Attleborough.

The Damien Woody home in greater Detroit.

The Bruschis sit down with family.

The Woodys gather at Ford Field.

The Bruschis give thanks for Tedy’s good health.

The Woodys watch the man of the house play for the Detroit Lions.

The Bruschis reflect with pride on the championships the man of their house has won.

The Woodys watch their man’s team get walloped at home by Atlanta, 27-7.

The Bruschis are secure in the knowledge that their man will go down as one of the most beloved sports figures in the region in history.

The Woodys look at Ben Wallace and wonder why their man can’t be as iconic as him, or his team as good as the Pistons.

The Bruschis look at their man’s team possibly veering upward, and perhaps peaking at just the right time for a run at another Super Bowl title.

The Woodys look at still another season of mediocrity in Motown.

The Bruschis feel nothing but holiday cheer.

The Woodys listen to a hail of boos at Ford Field, then head home, likely to a big home that their man’s huge signing bonus helped pay for, and quickly forget about all the above.

In reading this, you might glean that Woody is a bad person, and that his five seasons in New England went by totally unappreciated. That is not the case. This is simply another prima facia example of why the Patriots are the Patriots, and those who leave for richer (as opposed to greener) pastures are basically players who no longer can conform to the Patriot way.

Woody, who went to Boston College and knows the area well, seemed destined for a great Patriot career when he was taken in the first round of the 1999 draft. He was perhaps the best Bobby Grier draft pick (although you might make a good case for Kevin Faulk). He immediately became one of the best centers in the league. He had one flaw, that being he was poor at shotgun snapping. When Bill Belichick took over in 2000 from Pete Carroll, he found a solution in switching Woody to guard on shotgun plays, then eventually making the switch permanent by drafting fellow BC lineman Dan Koppen in the fifth round in 2003.

Seriously, Woody should have been a Patriot lifer. But two things happened in 2003 which led to Woody’s departure from the Patriots. Woody was hurt during the divisional playoff game against Tennessee, which forced Russ Hochstein to have to fill in at guard. Hochstein did so well that the Patriots managed to still win Super Bowl XXXVIII that year. With Stephen Neal poised to step in at starting guard, Woody suddenly became expendable.

Then there’s those four daughters of his, and those hungry mouths to feed. Admittedly, he was a lot more dignified about this thing than Ty (“I need to eat, man!”) Law. Woody wanted big bucks, and knew he’d get them somewhere. Sure enough, Detroit came along with the deal of a lifetime, and the former BC Eagle was on his way to one of the more woebegone franchises in the NFL.

While the Patriots have won three of the last four Super Bowls, the Lions know nothing about championships at all. Detroit hasn’t won an NFL championship since 1957, led by quarterbacks Bobby Layne and Tobin Rote (Layne was injured and did not play in the NFL title game, a 59-14 win over Cleveland). Since 1957, the Lions have made the playoffs only nine times, the last time eking in as an 8-8 Wild Card entry in 1999 but losing in the first round to Washington (which should surprise no one; the Lions are 2-20 against the Redskins since 1968). The Lions have the NFL’s worst cumulative record since 2002 (20-54).

For the record, the Patriots are 1-1 in Thanksgiving Day games against the Lions, losing in 2000 and winning in 2002.

Woody made his true feelings known in a recent Associated Press article about his coming to Detroit and leaving New England, which helps explain his motives and why he simply had to leave Foxborough. Woody described Detroit as a “perfect town” for him, “a tough, blue collar city”. He mentioned Wallace’s status in the area, and aspires to be as popular as the Piston center.

Woody goes on to talk about his days in New England. He called his time in Foxborough “great years”, but lamented over the fact that despite the championships, “we were second fiddle to the Red Sox”. He went on to say that the Lions would turn the city upside down if they were to ever win a Super Bowl. To be fair, it is not out of line for any New England Patriot to feel like a second banana to the Red Sox, thanks in large part to a media base which seems to be a propaganda arm for the Olde Towne Team.

But Woody did not leave New England because of the Red Sox. He was already in Detroit when Keith Foulke underhanded that comebacker to Doug Mientkiewicz.

Besides being expendable, he mentioned that he had to take care of his family. “I had to look out for my wife and four daughters”, said the former Patriot center. While this is not unusual or reprehensible, what he went on to say might raise a few eyebrows: “The Lions gave me a $9 million signing bonus, which I think is still a record for an offensive lineman.”

Show me one Lion fan who cares that Woody’s signing bonus is, or was, a record for his position. If it’s that important to Woody that he still remembers this tidbit two years later, then you know where Woody’s heart is, and what his real goal in his NFL life is. The big payday wins out over the rings. This isn’t about feeding his daughters. This is about feeding his ego.

Woody may feel like Ted Washington. He won his Super Bowl (in Woody’s case, twice), so let’s get the big bucks and head out of town. I got my ring, so I’m good. Let’s just get the big bucks and ride out my career.

This may be true, but Woody is still a professional who wants to win. He showed that on the sidelines of Thursday’s loss to the Falcons, getting in his offensive mates’ faces when they were all trying to pass the buck and place the blame on other players. It’s just that Woody had himself in the best winning situation of them all, yet chose to flee to Detroit because they made him a sweet money deal that he still wears like a badge of honor to this day.

And so, while Woody languishes with a perennially lousy team, being a literal nobody in a land where more people know Steve Yzerman and Pudge Rodriguez than they know him, Bruschi is nearing beatification status in Woody’s old region. Both families have different reasons to be thankful. You can decide which family you wish you were a part of , if you had a choice.

It is cliché to say that “money cannot buy happiness”. Maybe Woody is very happy where he is and with who he is. But most of us would give their right arm to be as loved as Bruschi is. To quote a popular advertising campaign, that love is only one thing.

Priceless.


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