In assessing his team's prospects for the upcoming season a week ago, Renegades coach and GM Joe Paopao used the word "overdue" in reference to Pat Woodcock.
Yesterday, Woodcock couldn't help but agree with the term.
"There was only one game (in 2004) I really felt I was involved (in the offence), that I contributed the way I wanted to," the Ottawa-born receiver said, harkening back to a three-catch, one-touchdown, 101-yard performance against the Hamilton Ticats in Week 16 of the Renegades' schedule. "Hopefully, I get the opportunity to cash in the overdue cheque."
The money analogy was proper, too, as Woodcock's game came under a microscope when he signed a highly celebrated, free-agent contract that, with a six-figure salary, that made him one of the Renegades' (and CFL's) top -paid players 15 months ago.
Marketability was a big reason ownership lured Woodcock from Montreal, but the paying customers also expected more from him on the field than what followed. Around freak eye and toe injuries that kept him out of four games, Woodcock had just one other TD and a total of 36 catches for 504 yards, which were the sixth-best receiving numbers on his team and ranked 40th among all pass catchers in the league.
If Woodcock supporters or the player himself didn't like the occasional criticism directed his way by the media, they were probably fortunate the heat was never turned on much above the 'medium' level. Despite the fact he's a model citizen who lives up to off-field charity fundraising obligations, Woodcock was an easy target on a 5-13 squad that fell far short of its goals -- especially when neither he, the coaching staff or quarterback Kerry Joseph would offer an acceptable reason as to why No. 16 wasn't used more often.
But that was yesteryear. On the most pleasant afternoon so far this spring, it was appropriate to look forward, to new beginnings.
"Last season is behind me already," said Woodcock, who is currently sporting a brush cut (easier to handle during toque season) he's not sure whether he'll keep. "We took what we could get and learned from it, but we're not going to dwell on it. Especially on a day like this. You want to get out there and get things started now."
It would figure that Woodcock needs to prove himself to coaches and quarterbacks from the outset of camp, which opens in about seven weeks. It would also be understandable if he was disappointed when Paopao and his offensive assistants were rehired. Whether it was the fact he had two costly fumbles in the early weeks, or that he just wasn't getting open enough, there has to be significant reason he didn't exceed an average of 21/2 receptions per game.
"Nothing like that has been said to me," he replied, when asked if he feels he has to gain the confidence of Joseph and the play-callers. "There's still a process to go through with Kerry, with his injuries and mine we didn't really get to play together that much. But that's a constant process with all receivers, not something I'm focused on.
"I definitely think it was a good move (to rehire Paopao)," he added. "There's been enough turmoil surrounding the team, without bringing in a whole new staff. Everybody likes playing for Joe. Hopefully, we can turn things around this year and put things back on stable ground."
Woodcock, who says the big right toe that first became a problem when he dislocated it is fine now and that he's been training hard since February, admits it would have been nice had the Renegades landed another weapon to the arsenal in the off-season.
"I talked to (fellow Renegade receiver) Yo (Murphy) and we were both excited," he said of the short time period Ottawa thought it had Ed Hervey before the Esks veteran reneged and re-signed in Edmonton. "But we have to focus on the guys that are here and stick together as a group. We definitely have enough tools to get the job done."