Al Woods' play sometimes flies under the radar a bit; that's just the nature of his job as an interior defensive lineman.
But Woods talents, while not always flashy, were very much appreciated by his coaches and teammates last season, which is why it comes as no surprise that the Seahawks are bringing the veteran defensive tackle back, having re-signed him Wednesday just before the start of the new league year.
After taking the 2020 season off due to COVID-19 concerns—his wife was pregnant at the time—Woods joined the Seahawks in 2021 at 34 years old and put together what might have been the best season of his 11-year career, recording a career-high 50 tackles, four tackles for loss, five quarterback hits and 1.5 sacks.
But of course when it comes to an interior lineman like Woods, those stats are only part of the story. Frequently his job is to occupy blockers so his teammates can make plays, and as Bobby Wagner frequently pointed out last season, he and Jordyn Brooks wouldn't have been able to pile up tackles at a record pace if not for the presence of Woods in the middle of the line.
The key to a big 2021 season, Woods said, was focusing on not on what he was able to accomplish every week, but on what he could do better.
"One thing I did was I never looked back at the games," Woods said Wednesday after signing his contract. "What I would do is I would get somebody to get me a cut up of my mistakes only. So I was always in a mind frame of, 'I've got to get better. I have to get better, because these plays cannot happen. I think that's what it was. I was resetting my mind to get better literally every week. I didn't want to stay the same. A lot of times I didn't even see my positive plays until somebody would send it on Instagram or whatever the case may be, or sometimes when we were watching film as a D-line on Mondays, coach would show some good plays, and I would be like, 'Oh cool, I did that. OK, on to the next.' My whole thing was, I kept writing it on paper, I would say it over and over in my head, 'I must get better, I must get better.'"
Woods was also a key part of a Seahawks run defense that held opponents to just 3.8 yards per carry, the second lowest mark in the NFL.
"He's a very special talent because he's such a big guy, he's got such great length," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said late last season. "He's really smart, and he's physical as well… He's just on fire, and he's so much fun to watch because he's having so much fun. He's having the time of his life playing. Really excited about it."
Woods said the decision to return to Seattle was an easy one, both for football reasons and because his family has come to love the area.
"I love my teammates," Woods said. "… I love Coach (Clint) Hurtt. That's probably going to be one of my all-time mentors even after football is over, so the longer I get to stick around him, the better. And I love Coach Pete (Carroll), John (Schneider), they're approachable, you can always talk to them about stuff other than football. That's what attracted me the most is that it's about life, not about the next two years that I'm wearing a helmet. And the fact that my family loved it up here. It was just all good stuff."
When it comes to Hurtt, who was promoted to defensive coordinator this offseason after previously serving as Seattle's defensive line coach and assistant head coach, continuing to play under Hurtt was a factor in re-signing, Woods said.
"He's very detailed in his work, and he's not a stubborn coach," Woods said. "You can go talk to him about stuff, and he gives you multiple ways to get your job done. It doesn't have to be, 'Hey, I'm the D.C. I say do it this way, so do it this way.' One of his best quotes that I love is, 'Sometimes you've got to go beyond coaching. I can put you in the best place to get your job done, but sometimes, the coaching is going to stop, and you have to go do your job.' So he gives you that bucket to say, 'These are the tools I've given you to do your job, you pick which tool you need to do that job.'"
A look back at some of the best photos of Seahawks defensive tackle Al Woods from the 2021 season.