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Riq Woolen Returns From PUP List Eyeing Big Things In Second Season 

Seahawks cornerback Riq Woolen talks about returning from his injury, goals for Year 2 and more.


Early in his preparation for his second season in the NFL, Riq Woolen "felt a pop" in his knee during organized team activities that ended up being a meniscus injury that required surgery.

That led to Woolen opening camp on the physically unable to perform list, but after passing his physical Sunday, the second-year corner, is on his way back, although he is being eased back into things.

"I've been taking it patiently, I know when the time comes it'll be time for me to be back out there," he said. "So far, I've been taking all the mental reps I can, and just doing whatever the coaching staff and training staff have been telling me to do, so that way I can come back healthy and come back at the right time."

Woolen isn't practicing fully yet, but a big part of coming off the PUP list is that he is now able to go through walkthroughs while he is working his way back to full speed.

"I'm still working back to normal, but I feel amazing," he said. "I feel like myself again, and I've been working on getting my leg strong again."

While his second training camp isn't off to the start he was hoping for, Woolen is still excited for what he can do in Year 2 after surprising so many people as a rookie. A fifth-round pick out of UTSA, Woolen came into the NFL with impressive physical traits, but very limited experience at corner having started his college career at receiver. Yet Woolen still managed to win a starting job in camp, and went on to record six interceptions, tied for the most in the NFL, on the way to becoming the Seahawks' first defensive rookie to make the Pro Bowl since Lofa Tatupu in 2005. And now that he has shown he belongs at this level, Woolen is looking to accomplish even bigger things in 2023.

"Honestly, I felt like last year, people didn't think I could play in this league, or they would have thought I was a special teams guy, but I felt like I have proved that to them," he said. "But also this season, I want to prove to myself that I'm the best corner in NFL, and I feel like I am one of the best cornerbacks in NFL."

So how does Woolen improve upon a Pro-Bowl season to become even better? One of the big goals, he says, is to improve at the mental side of the game, and Woolen has worked with one of the very best when it comes to the cerebral side of playing cornerback, with former All-Pro Richard Sherman spending time at practice this year and last.

"I'm a fast person, but it's a difference when you can save all your speed and just play with your mental abilities, and I feel like that's what Sherm did," Woolen said. "You know, Sherm wasn't the fastest guy, but he knew football in and out. And I feel like that's something that I want to do. Learn football in and out, that way when those plays do come that's the only time I want to run."

When it was jokingly pointed out that Woolen might not want to tell Sherman he wasn't the fastest cornerback, Woolen said, "He knows himself he wasn't really the fastest, but I mean his game speaks for itself. His instincts, his ability to know the plays and the routes and all that just shows for itself."

And while waiting to get back on the field to build towards those 2023 goals, Woolen has been impressed with what he has seen from his position group, which has been one of the deepest in this year's camp.

"As you saw today, them boys are balling, man," he said. "I'm happy to see them out there balling. I feel like with this team, in this league, there shouldn't be a drop-off. It showed today and it's been showing all through camp that these guys have been doing a great job and have been balling all through camp."

Finally, Woolen addressed his offseason decision to officially be known as Riq instead of Tariq. Woolen said friends and family have long used the shortened version of his first name, so he decided to just make it official.

"'Cause all my friends call me Riq, and it's kind of cool," he said when asked about the change.

Woolen said even his mother is OK with the abbreviated version of the name rather than the one she chose for her son 24 years ago.

"She calls me Riq, that's what my family calls me, that's what my friends call me," he said.

The Seahawks practiced at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center in Renton, Wash. on Monday, August 7 to prepare for their first game of the preseason against the Minnesota Vikings later this week.

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