- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff Writer
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Nearly six months ago, an unnamed teammate called out Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley, saying the reason he was always hurt was because he was out of shape. While this led to the perception of a fractured locker room, maybe the silver lining from this can finally be seen.
Perhaps more motivated to work out after being called out, Woodley reported to Steelers training camp in good shape, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
“Right now, Wood is where we need to have him,” linebackers coach Keith Butler said. “He looks good. He looks real good.”
This shouldn't come as a major surprise. In early May, Woodley said he was "getting after it" with his offseason conditioning. And Butler wouldn't be saying this to appease Woodley. He was a brutally honest critic of Woodley last training camp, when he said Woodley "needs to get his big butt into shape."
But this is just the first step for Woodley. The bottom line is producing on the field. Woodley needs to revert back to his form in 2011 before the hamstring injury. He began that season with nine sacks in his first eight games.
Since that time, Woodley has missed nine games due to hamstring and ankle injuries. To make matters worse, he has four sacks in the past 13 games that he's played.
The Steelers made it clear this offseason with James Harrison that they're not going to keep a player around at a high salary if he isn't meeting expectations. Woodley is scheduled to make $8 million in 2014, which only trails quarterback Ben Roethlisberger ($12.1 million) and safety Troy Polamalu ($8.25 million).
“We talked about it,” Butler said. “You think about the logistics of the NFL: A team is paying you $7-8 million dollars and they aren’t paying you to watch from the sidelines. I am a coach and they don’t pay me $7-8 million to stand on the sidelines and that’s what he’s been doing. If you are not on the field, you can’t earn your money. They might pay for one year, but they aren’t going to pay for the next year. That is the matter-of-fact of the NFL.”