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Woodhead, Vick Have Different Goals Tonight


The Jets and Eagles annually meet to close out the preseason schedule and the contest isn't often loaded with suspense and intrigue.

But tonight's "Battle of the Greens" at the Meadowlands will have a different feel because Michael Vick is going to play a lot for the Birds and there is plenty of curiosity to see where the talented man, who served close to two years in prison for his role in a dogfighting ring, is at in his professional comeback attempt.

However, Jets running back Danny Woodhead will not be thinking about an opposing quarterback as he puts his tape on, laces his spikes and runs out of the tunnel at the Meadowlands.

"He is an electrifying player and it's always fun to watch different players play. Is he going to be noticed? Yeah, I'm sure he is, but that's not something that's on my mind," Woodhead said this week. "I'm going to go out there and try to do my assignments instead of watch him."

In Woodhead's football world, the number 53 takes precedence over No. 7. The Jets are required to cut their roster down to 53 men by Saturday and they could begin making transactions hours after this game concludes.

"To say will he make the team or not, I don't know," Jets head coach Rex Ryan about Woodhead. "It's tough sledding — you've got three big-time backs in front of him. But Woodhead is a special guy. He's tough, he's got great hands, he's a great competitor, so we'll see how he does."

No matter what happens, Woodhead has completed a successful comeback from a left knee injury he suffered last year at the beginning of training camp. After being placed on injured reserve, Woodhead had a lot of down time before undergoing a rigorous rehabilitation. He fully participated in the team's spring workouts, was a regular at training camp and has rushed 27 times for 68 yards and caught two passes for 12 yards in three preseason games.

"I didn't want to come back 80 percent. My goal wasn't just to come back and have my knee healthy enough to play — that wasn't my goal at all," he said. "My goal was to come back and be a better football player than I was last year, and I think I've done that."

The preseason has been a memorable one for Woodhead. Ten days after the former Chadron State star made his pro debut, he rushed 14 times for 41 yards in the game against the Baltimore Ravens that ESPN televised nationally.

"That is probably really cool for my hometown," he said of North Platte, Neb. "It was a lot of fun, it was a great atmosphere. I'm loving playing the game again. I've never had a year off like that and that was tough to be out of the game for so long. It's just great to come out and do whatever I can to help this team win."

If Woodhead does make the opening-day roster — and there will be two Week 1 roster exemptions with Shaun Ellis and Calvin Pace serving suspensions — the likelihood of him getting a lot of regular-season action isn't great. The Jets are loaded at running back with Leon Washington, Thomas Jones and Shonn Greene, the third-round pick from Iowa coming back from sore ribs. But tonight Woodhead will get a long look to make his final summer case to the Jets and perhaps 31 other clubs.

"With whatever work I get, I'm just going to try to take advantage of it and that's what I've been trying to do all preseason, all camp and everything," he said. "I'm going to try to take of every chance I get."

There is a consistency in Woodhead's approach, so he won't feel much differently prior to tonight's final audition than he has hundreds of times before.

"I think I've had probably a little bit of nerves every single game I've played in my life. I think it's more that I'm anxious and excited to play, but I get excited to play every single game," he said. "It doesn't matter if I was in high school playing against a team that isn't very good or a team that's really good. I get anxious to play any game."

He's not reflective on his illustrious college career, during which he won two consecutive Harlon Hill Trophies at Chadron honoring the best player in Division II. The 5'9", 195-pounder believes he's a pro running back.

While Michael Vick aims for vindication, Danny Woodhead gets an opportunity to make a final argument.

"Do I think I can play in this league? Yeah, I do," he said. "That's not my decision, to make the cuts, but I'm very confident in my abilities. You kind of have to be if you're at this level."

A Series for the Starters

Ryan is taking a new approach to this final game. While his two immediate Green & White predecessors, Eric Mangini and Herman Edwards, typically kept the starters on the bench, Ryan will get the first string some first-quarter action to prevent rust from developing.

"We'll play our starters maybe just one series on both sides of the ball just to get them out there," he said. "Sometimes it's great to have that extra time, but sometimes it almost feels like too much time to have completely off. There will be some guys extended beyond that, but very few, I think, so to the starters, make it count."

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