As the search for Mr. Anonymous continues into its third day, veteran inside linebacker Larry Foote found himself interrogated on the subject during an interview with 93.7 The Fan Morning Show.
The interview began with a host jokingly accusing Foote of being the deepthroat in the blubber-gate scandal. Foote admitted the same question had been stirring in the locker room as well, though he quickly denied it. According to Foote, all of the players seem to be just as curious as the rest of the NFL world. He said accusations are quickly laughed off, and spent the next few minutes defending Woodley's naturally large size and his limited playing time due to real injury.
Foote did have a theory of his own. He put forward a scenario involving a coach possibly installing the fabricated quote in Ron Cook's original piece, suggesting one may have been trying to use it as motivation; however, Foote was amazed such a comment would come from any member of the Pittsburgh Steelers organization, from any level of employment. He agreed with Ryan Clark, who expressed the importance of keeping things in-house being a part of being a part of the Steelers family, just the day before.
The interview went on to other normal off-season topics, but the most interesting news came from a quickly inserted question, which was relatively irrelevant to the topic of the moment. Foote was asked about the possiblity of returning to Pittsburgh in 2013.
According to Foote, the Steelers have been in active negotiations with his agent, and a new deal currently waits for both parties to agree on a number.
Foote said as much following the end of the 2012 season, on the same radio show. He has made extremely clear his desire to return to Pittsburgh, even to the point of a pay cut from previous year's wages. However, in his most recent interview, he did say he would entertain free-agency offers before making any decision.
It is unlikely Foote will draw much attention in the market. He left the team as an unrestricted free-agent to sign with the Detroit Lions in 2009, but after one season he was released and quickly snatched up again by the Steelers. Foote re-signed with his original team to be a reserve rather than retire or remain unemployed after receiving no offers elsewhere.
When James Farrior was released prior to the 2012 season, Foote became a starter at inside linebacker beside Lawrence Timmons. Foote enjoyed arguably his best season as a professional, recording 113 combined tackles and four sacks - both career bests. He also forced two fumbles and defended two passes, while being responsible for the on-field defensive play calling. However, the 32 year old linebacker has lost a step from his younger self, and is perceived as a coverage liability in base personnel packages.
While there are no guarantees Foote will retake his starting spot in Pittsburgh in 2013, the Steelers could desperately use his veteran experience and leadership. Sean Spence, the team's third-round draft pick in 2012, has not fully recovered from surgery to repair damage to his knee incurred during the team's final preseason game. His career has become a larger question mark than his return next season, leaving the team little option but to plan on being without him.
The team's fourth inside linebacker, Stevenson Sylvester, is a restricted free agent; although the team may not have seen enough from him to validate even the minimum RFA tender of $1.323 million. He could be signed to a cheaper deal closer to camp, if the team is still in need of interior linebackers after the draft.
The Steelers have already added a few other ILBs to the off-season roster, although only Marshall McFadden has experience in Pittsburgh. The team may be unwilling to force an incoming free-agent or draft pick into a starting role. Foote's re-signing would allow the team to search for an eventual replacement in both the 2013 and 2014 drafts, while relying on his veteran wisdom to help keep the Steelers atop the defensive rankings.
Regardless of where Foote winds up this off-season, it's evident there is no other place he'd rather be.