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Woodson weighs in on top cornerback

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Alex Marvez

Alex Marvez is a Senior NFL Writer for FOXSports.com. He has covered the NFL for the past 18 seasons as a beat writer and is the former president of the Pro Football Writers of America. He also is a frequent host on Sirius XM NFL Radio.

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A Hall of Fame defensive back has weighed in on one of the NFL’s most spirited offseason debates:

Is Seattle’s Richard Sherman or Tampa Bay’s Darrelle Revis the league’s top cornerback?

For Rod Woodson it’s the former, even though he says Sherman “talks crazy.”

“He talks so much,” a laughing Woodson told me and co-host Jim Miller on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “I think a lot of people don’t respect him because of that. But with the way he plays he really is the best corner in the game.”

The braggadocios Sherman won’t argue the point. After his second NFL campaign in 2012, Sherman proclaimed himself the league’s best “shutdown” cornerback – a title that was bestowed upon Revis before he suffered a season-ending knee injury last September while with the New York Jets.

Sherman and Revis then got into a war of words on Twitter about the topic. Revis posted that Sherman ran his mouth “like a girl,” was “still taking baby steps” and warned the 25-year-old to “not get too ahead” of himself. Sherman touted his eight interceptions in 2012 – a single-season total that Revis hasn’t reached since entering the league in 2007 – and that his rival would be “irrelevant” after returning to action.

Sherman and Revis will have the chance to showcase their skills on the same field November 3 when Seattle hosts Tampa Bay.

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Woodson believes Revis, who was traded to the Buccaneers last month, could reclaim his unofficial title if able to fully recover from a torn left anterior cruciate ligament suffered against the Miami Dolphins. Woodson tore his ACL in the 1995 season-opener but was able to return for Pittsburgh’s loss to Dallas in Super Bowl XXX.

“It’s all mental,” Woodson said. “The procedure itself is so common today compared to years ago. You have to do so much in your head into getting ready. The body is only going to heal when it heals. We can do all the rehab we want to but the knee is going to heal with time.

“What Revis has to do is believe in the knee. Think about it: Derrick Rose for the Chicago Bulls has been cleared to play … but I don’t know if he has the confidence in his knee. Revis has to be very confident when he goes back out there that he can plant and drive, that he doesn’t have to worry about it. Hopefully, he did all that rehab and believes in it. It’s about trust.”

Woodson believes Sherman and Revis may soon face competition for “best cornerback” honors. He cited Arizona’s Patrick Peterson and St. Louis’ Janoris Jenkins as two “up-and-coming guys” who have caught his eye.

“[Peterson] is just a big, physical athlete,” Woodson said. “He’s still learning how to play the position. But you try to find a guy who’s 6-foot-1, 6-2 and can run a 40 in 4.3-something with great hands and great vision.”

Even though Jenkins has played one season for the Rams, Woodson gushed about his performance as a rookie.

“That kid’s skill set is so great,” Woodson said. “He has no fear. He jumps routes. If he keeps progressing in a positive manner, he might be the best in the league in a couple of years.”

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Woodson, 48, is arguably the best defensive back in NFL history. A cornerback who converted to safety later in his 17-year career, Woodson holds the league’s all-time record with 12 interception returns for touchdowns. He also ranks third in overall interceptions with 71.

Two years after becoming a first-ballot selection into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Woodson tried his hand at coaching cornerbacks with the Oakland Raiders. Woodson, along with head coach Hue Jackson and the majority of his staff, were fired at the end of the 2011 season.

Woodson said he “absolutely loved” the experience but admits it was an eye-opening one, especially after he didn’t have offseason time to work with his charges because of the lockout from the NFL’s labor strife with the NFL Players Association.

“My biggest mistake is I thought they would know more, the four- or five-year vets, than what they knew,” said Woodson, who now trains cornerback prospects preparing for the NFL draft. “If I had to do it over again, I would break it down to its basic form and start from scratch like they were little-league kids.

“You’d really be disappointed by what they learn in college comparable to the old-school days. They’re not learning a lot about football or the little things of the game, of your position. That’s very, very hard to teach coming into it (like) studying film and how to be professional. You don’t know how tough guys are in training camp because they don’t go through (extensive contact practices) any more. You don’t find out until they get into the fire during the regular season. Then it’s too late.”

Tagged: Rams, Seahawks, Buccaneers, Darrelle Revis, Richard Sherman

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