Lions Woody Thriving In "Family" Environment

A recurring theme among the Lions recent free agent acquisitions from Az-Zahir Hakim to Dre' Bly to Fernando Bryant to Damien Woody has been the city of Detroit and the organization's ability in particular to create a family-like atmosphere. Lions insider' Mike Fowler interviewed Woody, exclusive commentary inside.

(ALLEN PARK) - A recurring theme among the Lions recent free agent acquisitions from Az-Zahir Hakim to Dre' Bly to Fernando Bryant to Damien Woody has been the city of Detroit and the Lions' organization's ability in particular to create a family-like atmosphere.

You can't help but be impressed when the President of a Fortune 500 corporation like Bill Ford, Jr., takes time out of his busy schedule to visit with you and your wife as you tour the Lions facilities and Ford Field in downtown Detroit.

Indeed, new Lions offensive guard Damien Woody, who was the subject of an intense recruiting battle between the Lions and the Miami Dolphins, indicated that one of the key factors in his decision to come to Detroit was the family-like atmosphere created by Lions owners William Clay Ford, Sr., Bill Ford, Jr., president Matt Millen and head coach Steve Mariucci.

"The thing about this town and this organization, is that I feel real comfortable," said Woody after the team's second session of this week's Organized Team Activity . "I mean they've really made me feel real welcome [including] the city and the fans in Detroit. That was a real big factor [in his decision to sign with Detroit] and I still feel the same way now. My whole family has moved out here and we're pretty much 'grounded' here now. I'm really excited to get going here in Detroit."

Woody says that nothing changed once he actually signed the contract and officially became a part of the Lions family.

"It's been great man, just the family environment, the organization. Guys have really welcomed me in here," said Woody. "Coach Mariucci is a great guy with a great personality. The [West Coast offensive] system is a great system. I've really enjoyed it so far."

Woody says eventually that kind of atmosphere will pay dividends on the field.

He is convinced that there is little difference between the New England Patriots team that went 5-11 in 2000 and then 11-5 in 2001 and this year's edition of the Lions, who coincidentally also went 5-11 in 2003.

"I definitely feel that way. When I said that at the press conference, that was without even seeing any of the guys on the team really play. Now that I'm out here in the camp, I'm even more optimistic about our chances this year. With the Patriots, we went from 5-11 in 2000 to 11-5 [in 2001]. In this league, anything can happen. I'm really anxious to get things going.

Woody believes that the veteran players on the Lions roster can give a helping hand in assisting younger players, such as rookie wide receiver Roy Williams, running back Kevin Jones, linebacker Teddy Lehmann and third year quarterback Joey Harrington, to be more productive on the field.

"I think with the right veteran mix [it can be done]. That's the one thing I think the front office really did a good job in bringing veteran leadership in here. [With] guys like myself, (free agent signee) Brock Marion and other guys on this team, that really aids in speeding up the learning curve with the young guys because we're going to need everybody. In the end, we're going to need all 53 guys - everybody - to get this thing done."

Woody says after just a few practices together, the team is already starting to mesh together on the offensive line.

"A lot of that stuff happens off the field," said the six year veteran from Boston College. "I've been in an organization where we bonded really well off the field, and that really aids in your progress on the field, I believe. We'll go out to dinner and do all the little stuff like that."

"The little stuff really helps you on the field because you know your guy that you're playing beside, you trust them more and once you get that togetherness, then that is when everything really starts to click," Woody continued. "Everybody knows that the offensive line is the one unit that has to play as one. If we can get that going, that will aid in everyone's progression, quarterback, wide receivers and everything."

Woody says that once everyone gets settled in town, he wants to get their respective families together so that everyone can get to know each other and starts building that chemistry that will lead to success on the field.

"It's early now. A lot of guys are just getting situated back here in Detroit, myself included. As things progress, I'm sure were going to be going out a lot more and just doing things together because, with New England, that's the one thing we really did a lot and I think it really helped us a lot on the field."

But if he's now comfortable in Detroit what's this business about being a Laker fan?

"I'm a Laker's fan," laughed Woody, "but you know what? I just want to see good basketball and I think this is going to be a great series, it's going to be tremendous. I can see going to a couple of games or watching the games on TV, I mean that crowd at Auburn Hills is unbelievable.

So then he can be converted?

"I was a Yankees fan, but when I was in Boston, I slowly turned into a Red Sox fan, so anything can happen."

Maybe even the Lions making the playoffs in 2004? Hey, like the man said, anything can happen.

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