After the 2012 season ended, an anonymous Pittsburgh Steelers player told Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley was awful last season and not in shape.
"He tells us he works out, but we didn\'t see it," Cook reported the unnamed player as saying back in February. "He wasn\'t in shape. That has to be a reason why he was always hurt."
Over the course of the entire offseason, Woodley\'s commitment to conditioning has been questioned. Several of his teammates have had his back and Woodley himself has insisted his poor play in 2012 was mainly because of a high ankle sprain that wouldn\'t allow him to be the dominant force on the left side that he once was just a few short years ago.
"You know last year we talked about the hamstring, but you keep forgetting most of the games I missed was due to the high ankle sprain," Woodley said Wednesday. "The ankle just took time to heal. Throughout the season, when you have a high ankle sprain, you\'re struggling to push back each and every day throughout practice trying to get back. Sometimes you set yourself back in practice and don\'t even know it. Then you try to go out there in a game and it\'s just not 100 percent."
"So what I did before I went out to Arizona, I\'d just take time. Even when I was out there in Arizona my ankle was still bothering me, but it took time to heal."
So what does Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler think about the 2013 version of his left outside linebacker so far in training camp? He\'s already said he looks good, but apparently revealed on Thursday that Woodley has dropped some weight over the course of the offseason.
According to Will Graves of the Associated Press on Twitter, Butler said Woodley was playing at 295-300 pounds the last couple years, but that\'s down significantly right now. Butler also reportedly said Woodley knows the waiver wire is filled with high dollar free agents who were released because they weren\'t living up to what they were being paid. When Butler was asked if 2013 was a "prove it" year for Woodley, the coach was straight forward with his response without singling out the Michigan product individually.
"It\'s a prove it year for everybody in that room," Butler said.
Woodley also said on Wednesday that he hopes to rush the quarterback more in 2013 than he did last year, because he feels he is paid to do just that. That sounds nice in theory, but defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau won\'t be altering his scheme just so his left outside linebacker won\'t have to drop as much into pass coverage.
Should Woodley have a repeat performance of 2012 this year, he still isn\'t likely to be released next offseason as his dead money charge would be $14.17 million if cut prior to June 1. That\'s just too tough to absorb. Nothing is guaranteed, however, and even Butler made that point clear to Graves.
Every year if we don\'t do well, we all get fired," he said. "I wish America was like that, we\'d all be more productive."