The Pittsburgh Steelers dealt with a plethora of injuries during the 2012 regular season. While LaMarr Woodley was not one of the most severe injuries suffered, his was definitely one of the most talked about.
The biggest problem is, when the talking began it didn't seem to be focused specifically on the high-ankle sprain which forced Woodley to miss action and quarterbacks. Inquiring eyes were looking a little higher, as captured in the comments of an unnamed teammate.
"He was awful. He tells us he works out, but we didn't see it. He wasn't in shape. That has to be a reason why he was always hurt."
"It doesn't bother me at all. They're coming at the wrong person when they try coming at me. I don't listen to nothing. Playing football my whole life growing up, and you're in the spotlight, sometimes it comes with the good and the bad. You just have to know how to accept it.
"Somebody talking about me doesn't motivate me. I don't pay attention to it."
Woodley was already reportedly deep into his off-season program when the unattributed comments came out following the end of last season. He points toward his injured ankle as his biggest hindrance.
"The ankle is great. After the season, I had time to rest on it and get off of it a little bit.
"During the season you're fighting, trying to get back on the field and you kind of set yourself back and forth a little bit, but, during the offseason, I had time to let it heal."
The Steelers are hoping the ankle is healed, as they will be relying heavily on Woodley in 2013. With James Harrison now playing for the Cincinnati Bengals, Woodley will be left to create pocket pressure with Jason Worilds or Jarvis Jones. Woodley is now one of the defense's veteran leaders, and the team wants him to lead on the field - not from the bench.
Woodley may be separating himself from the conditioning commentary for now, but he will need a strong year to prevent such quotes from rearing their ugly heads next off-season.