Josh Woods considered his time in Detroit with the Lions this past year as a fresh start after the team signed him off Chicago's practice squad Week 3.
Woods instantly became one of Detroit's best special teams players, but for the first time in his career he was also given an opportunity to compete for playing time on defense. He made a career-high 13 tackles in a December loss in Denver, before finishing the season on injured reserve with a neck injury.
The Lions re-signed the restricted free agent on Tuesday, and Woods thinks the date he put pen to paper on a new contract isn't a coincidence.
"I kind of felt like I had a ceiling beforehand and I came here and had a fresh start," Woods told detroitlions.com after signing his contract Tuesday. "Ironically enough, it's 2-22 (February 22nd), 2022 at 222 Republic Drive (Lions headquarters address) and those three twos, that angel number, is supposed to represent a fresh start, if you're into numerology and things of that nature. I was like no way are all of these twos keep coming together today. So, I looked it up and it means a fresh start."
Woods, 25, played mostly on special teams the last two seasons in Chicago as an undrafted player out of Maryland. He talked this year about enjoying the opportunity to play some defense here in Detroit after being pigeon-holed as just a special teamer early in his career.
He appeared in 12 games (one start) for Detroit last season and totaled 21 tackles (16 solo), two tackles for loss, two quarterback hits and seven special teams tackles (five solo). His 113 defensive snaps played this year in Detroit were more than double his career snaps on defense up to that point.
"One of my first conversations with coach (Dan) Campbell we were in stretch lines at practice and he walks up and goes, 'Hey man, how you doing? Coach Campbell. We're ready to get you rolling on special teams right away and the quicker you learn this defense the quicker you'll be out there on this field,'" Woods said of his first interaction with Campbell.
"That was kind of the first time that a head coach would say something of that nature to me. Straight up with me. Very refreshing. It was different than what I was used to."
Woods has appeared in 37 career games (one start) and has logged 28 tackles (20 solo), two tackles for loss, two quarterback hits, one fumble recovery and 19 special teams tackles (13 solo).
View photos of Lions linebacker Derrick Barnes during his first year with the team
The Lions linebacker room could go through some significant changes this offseason. Starters Alex Anzalone and Jalen Reeves-Maybin will be unrestricted free agents in March. Derrick Barnes is expected to be in the mix for a starting job heading into his second season after recording 67 tackles (42 solo) with four tackles for loss and two sacks as a rookie.
Woods now returns for the 2022 season as one of Detroit's core special teams players, and will be given an opportunity to compete for a role on defense as well.
"I'm extremely thankful for how the stars are kind of aligning right now," Woods said. "There's still a lot of work to be done, don't get me wrong, I don't think I've arrived by any means, but the fact that I get to fight for something is all you can ask for."