Monday, December 9, 2013
By Mike Lowe firstname.lastname@example.org
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - Danny Woodhead is listed as 5-foot-9 in his New England Patriots' bio. That's probably generous, by a couple of inches.
Wes Welker, also listed at 5-9, towers over Woodhead, who has a choirboy face, talks softly and looks like the boy next door. Take him out of a pro football locker room and he certainly wouldn't stand out in a crowd on Main Street.
Yet, Sunday afternoon, Woodhead -- playing his first game for the Patriots -- had a big impact in New England's 38-30 victory over the Buffalo Bills. He rushed the ball three times, averaging 14 yards a carry, and scored on a 22-yard touchdown run that had everyone jumping out of their seats.
"I like Danny," said wide receiver Randy Moss, who for the second consecutive week spoke after the game, after saying he wouldn't be talking every week after the game. "He's a stub guy, a little short (guy). He runs hard and has some nice cuts."
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, whose locker is next to Woodhead's, was asked to talk about him.
"Y'all seen Danny," said Green-Ellis, who led the Patriots with 98 rushing yards. "You know ... it's self-explanatory."
Woodhead, who was twice named the winner of the Harlon Hill Trophy (given to the top Division II player in the nation) while at tiny Chadron State in North Platte, Neb., is the latest of the Patriots plug-in specialists. And he could play a huge role the rest of the season.
The Patriots signed him Sept. 18, after he had been released by the New York Jets on Sept. 14. His value increased exponentially when Kevin Faulk was lost for the season with a torn right ACL. Woodhead can run, he can catch.
"I'm not disrespecting (Woodhead)," said Moss. "I know it's hard to replace Kevin Faulk but hopefully he can come in and be Woodhead and not try to be Kevin."
Woodhead realizes this, which is why he spent much of the week studying the Patriots playbook. It is complicated, but he absorbed enough to be available for Sunday.
"He had a pretty good week," said Coach Bill Belichick. "We put him in practice Friday and he was pretty good on all his assignments and everything he had to do. We didn't ask him to do everything but I think he's working pretty hard at it.
"He picked it up pretty quickly. He seems like a smart guy."
He certainly learned how to speak Belichickian quickly.
"It was great to be out there as a New England Patriot," he said. "I was excited. I get excited every single game. And today it was the Bills and we did everything we could to come out with the victory. And that was the most important thing, to come out with the W."
But what about your touchdown Danny? Remember?
You took the handoff, went through a big hole up the middle, then sidestepped two defenders at the 15 and ran to the left, where there was no one there. The sprint to the end zone must have been exciting.
"The linemen made great blocks," said Woodhead.
"I did the easy part, which is just to run it. The linemen did great and the receivers and tight ends ... I mean, you can't ask for better blocking as a running back. All I did was try to do my job."
What did that touchdown mean to you, Danny?
"More than anything, it was good to help the team out," he said, surrounded by media. "I'm not so concerned with getting my touchdown or whatever.
"I'm more concerned with getting the victory."
Did you at least keep the ball?
No, he said, after looking around his locker.
What about having something to prove? You're a little guy, Danny. You came from a small school, no one gave you a chance.
"It's not really for me to try to prove people wrong," he said. "My job is to be the best player that I can be. And that's what I'm going to continue to do, go out and work hard and do everything I can to become a better player each day to help this team win each game."
Tom Brady, who threw three touchdown passes, was impressed, as was everyone. Yeah, he joked about Woodhead's height -- saying it must be hard for the defense to see him "tucked in there behind the center" -- but knows a lot of work went into his performance.
"He did great," said Brady. "What an impressive performance for a guy who's been here for 10 minutes."
But that's what people expect here. Faulk is out for the season, and Woodhead is expected to step in and make it hurt less. Fred Taylor gets hurt in the third quarter and Green-Ellis comes in and overpowers the Bills.
"If you're in this locker room, you can help the team," said offensive guard Stephen Neal. "And they both helped the team a lot today.
"It's just a pleasure to watch people work hard all week and they get the opportunity and they come through and do a great job."
Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at: