When the Ravens jumped on signing running back Danny Woodhead this offseason, the biggest question about the veteran running back was whether he would be healthy.
Fast forward to the start of Baltimore’s Organized Team Activities (OTAs), and Woodhead took the field for the team’s first practice.
“Yes, I’m back. No restrictions,” Woodhead said. “I’m just playing football now. I haven’t been thinking about needing to do stuff to rehab it because I’m healthy now. It’s exciting to get football going.”
Woodhead’s knee injury came on Sept. 18 last year in a home game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
He was lined up in the slot as a wide receiver, darted across the field and caught the ball just after the TV announcer told fans Woodhead was going to be a prominent part of the Chargers’ offense that afternoon (and season).
Just after the catch, linebacker Telvin Smith blasted Woodhead backwards, which bent his knee awkwardly. Woodhead let go of the ball as he crumpled to the ground, where he rolled around in pain.
It was a torn ACL in his right knee in just the second game of the year. His season was done after just 19 carries for 116 yards and six catches for 35 yards and a touchdown. It was a tough blow, but Woodhead has a different outlook on it months later.
“I believe it happened for a reason,” he said. “I’m big in my faith and following God, and I think that, when it was all said and done, He knew what was going to happen. Who knows? Maybe, if I didn’t get hurt, I wouldn’t be here.”
Ravens safety Eric Weddle had already told Woodhead that he should come to Baltimore. After the injury, it seemed like destiny. Woodhead’s contract expired and the Chargers weren’t bringing him back.
Woodhead said he feels fortunate that he got hurt so early last season because it allowed him to get back on the field at the start of offseason workouts. He’s been running routes for three months.
Woodhead said an essential year of rest has helped his body overall. A break isn’t a bad thing for a 5-foot-8, 200-pound running back who hasn’t been afraid to put his smaller body at risk for an extra couple yards over his nine seasons.
“I feel really good,” Woodhead said. “I feel pretty similar [to before the injury], man, I really do. There may be a few days when I feel like there’s some rust, but I’ve been doing stuff. When you get hurt, you’re training more.”
Critics will say it’s going to be tough to bounce back considering Woodhead’s coming off the ACL injury and is now 32 years old. Woodhead doesn’t pay them any attention.
“I don’t feel like I have to prove anything,” he said. “Now, my motivation to get back to where I was is high. But it’s not to show anyone anything; it’s to help the team win football games. I feel like I could be better.
“I know everyone likes to talk about 30-year-old running backs, but I feel pretty similar to the way I did in Year 3 or 4.”
Forget Years 3 or 4. Production like he had in Year 5 or 7 would be a very welcomed addition in Baltimore. In his last full season in 2015, Woodhead ran 98 times for 336 yards and three touchdowns and caught 80 passes for 755 yards and another six scores.
He’s a versatile threat that creates mismatches, helps his quarterback feel more comfortable and stops at nothing to pick up first downs.
It’s unknown exactly where Woodhead fits in on Baltimore’s depth chart along with returning starter Terrance West and promising second-year running back Kenneth Dixon (suspended for the first four games). Woodhead isn’t worry about it.
“It’s hard to say right now because, let’s be honest, there’s a lot of practice before we play,” he said. “As far as my role, who knows? I just want to help the team.”