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Steelers linebacker Woodley shapes up for 2013

| Wednesday, July 31, 2013, 10:48 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Steelers' LaMarr Woodley rushes against Le'Veon Bell during the backs-on-backers drill during practice Monday, July 29, 2013, at St. Vincent in Latrobe.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley practices Wednesday, July 31, 2013, at St. Vincent.

There's no denying that LaMarr Woodley has a chip on his shoulder.

At least that's what teammate Larry Foote has observed through the first week of training camp, and, surprisingly, it has nothing to do with the offseason chatter by an anonymous teammate about the newly minted $61.5 million linebacker being out of shape.

“(The chip) is not because of what people were saying but because he was out last year,” Foote said.

A hamstring injury followed by a high-ankle sprain kept Woodley out of three games, leading to a career-low four sacks and spawning a series of debates about whether the linebacker's weight was the reason.

Woodley said the criticism just comes with the territory.

“I sit back and I laugh at that type of stuff because everybody always has an opinion,” Woodley said. “If you have a bad season, you have to point the finger at somebody, and I just happened to be the guy they pointed the finger at.”

Woodley said he refused to let the criticism bother him.

“When they showed that stuff on ESPN about the anonymous … I laughed,” he said. “I was actually getting up every morning and laughing at that because I thought it was quite funny.”

Foote said he never read too much into Woodley's weight because “he's always been big.”

“He is one of those husky kids — he's always been big,” Foote said. “Look back at the film when he was getting 15 sacks, and he still looks the same.”

Still, something did get through to Woodley, and it could have been a talk he had with linebackers coach Keith Butler during which Butler stressed that Woodley needed to find a way to stay on the field.

Fast forward a couple of months. Woodley is in noticeably better shape, and that can be traced to an offseason training regimen he went through in Arizona with Ryan Clark and former teammates James Harrison and Max Starks.

“Right now, Wood is where we need to have him,” Butler said. “He looks good.”

Woodley hopes he can get back to the form of 2008-10, when he had sack years of 11 12, 13 12 and 10.

Woodley blames some of his dropoff to fewer opportunities the past few seasons.

“In 2011, we did more rushing and less covering,” Woodley said. “They pay me to rush, so hopefully they have me rushing and not covering receivers and tight ends down the field.”

And with Harrison gone to Cincinnati, that just might be the plan.

Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at mkaboly@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MarkKaboly_Trib.

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