Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Hollywood heavyweight Judd Apatow recently
tackled the many travails of middle-aged married couples in his latest comedy
"This is 40," a stand-alone sequel to his 2007 hit "Knocked Up."
The film follows the lives of Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Apatow's real-life
wife Leslie Mann) as they each turn 40, just as their jobs and daughters are
adding stress to their relationship.
If Apatow ever wanted to tackle the NFL and middle age, he would have to
rewind about a decade because 30 has become the dirty word in a league built
on athleticism but ruled by a salary cap.
For pedestrian players, hitting the age of 30 was always a problem and will
continue to be one moving forward because there is almost always a younger,
cheaper option waiting in the wings, one whom can run a faster 40-yard dash and
bench-press 225 pounds a few more times.
For stars, however, 30 was just a number as long as the production was still
These days, things have changed.
Every NFL team has now kicked off its rookie mini-camp and filled its roster to
the bloated 90-man offseason limit yet aging stalwarts like Charles Woodson,
Dwight Freeney and John Abraham are still looking for work.
The 36-year-old Woodson spoke about his predicament on NFL Network's "Total
Access" on Thursday.
"If it were left up to me, I will be in the NFL again this coming season,"
Woodson said. "Right now, it is kind of slow out there, the options have dried
up, but I am still waiting for an opportunity to play for a team, help a team
win. So I plan on playing in the future."
Woodson's frustration was palpable. While it's true he has seen his better
days, even the most obtuse NFL observer knows Woodson was still contributing
more at the end of 2012 than a lot of safeties around the league and more than
enough to guarantee another season if production was the only bar.
"It is kind of the process, but at the same time it is frustrating," Woodson
remarked. "You have guys that can flat-out play football. You look at Dwight
Freeney and what he is able to do. They had a system last year that is
different than he is used to playing, but he can play football. John Abraham,
he led his team in sacks and you say, 'We don't have a spot for you on our
roster?' I can't understand that. Myself, I am just a ballplayer. I need to
be on a team."
Aging stars are used to getting paid, however, and Woodson commands more than
most want to invest in a plus-30 player.
After the Green Bay Packers released the future Hall of Famer on Feb. 15,
Woodson hoped his future included a contender and he honed in on the team that
jettisoned the Pack from the postseason, the San Francisco 49ers.
"When this process first started out, that was my thing, I needed to go to a
contender," Woodson said.
Understand the Packers made a very difficult decision when they released the
former NFL Defensive Player of the Year after a productive seven-year run in
Titletown Woodson was coming off an injury-plagued season, was due a $6.5
million salary which would have counted $10 million against the cap had Green
Bay exercised an option bonus for 2013.
Since his brilliant 2009 season when he was regarded as a lockdown defender on
the outside, Woodson has slowly regressed, first being relegated to the slot
and then moved back to safety by Green Bay defensive coordinator Dom Capers.
To his credit, the heady Woodson was still able to be a playmaker at times
over the past three seasons despite losing a step or two, and still has some
gas left in the tank as a nickel corner over the slot or a safety near the
line of scrimmage.
The Niners, meanwhile, were one play away from winning Super Bowl XLVII back
in February and, at least on paper, Woodson to the Bay Area looked like a
perfect match. The 49ers are still close enough to the Lombardi Trophy to
slide their chips to the middle of the table come September, and lost veteran
Pro Bowl safety Dashon Goldson in free agency to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Instead of inking the former Heisman Trophy winner, however, San Francisco
signed Craig Dahl, a 27-year-old pedestrian player, and traded up in the NFL
Draft to snare LSU safety Eric Reid, two younger and cheaper alternatives.
It's hard to argue against Reid for the future, but it's even harder to imagine
Dahl or Reid giving the 49ers what Woodson could in 2013. And in San Francisco
the future is now.
"I don't really know, but I would assume, two days after I (visited San
Francisco) they signed a safety, then they picked up a young safety in the
draft," Woodson said, referring to Dahl and Reid. "That's two more safeties
added to their roster, so I don't really see (the 49ers) being an option at
So, what are the options?
"I know I am towards the end of my career," Woodson said. "At this point, I
want to play football. So if it is a rebuilding stage, at this point if that
is the circumstances I have to play under, then that is what I am going to
Translation -- it's a buyer's market and a seven-time All-Pro has been marked
down in the clearance aisle.
Apatow might call it "Life after 30."
The Sports Network