Dwight Clark, who made one of history’s most famous catches, had an insider's view of new Hall of Famer Rod Woodson’s career.
It seems fair to wonder. Would Dwight Clark have made “The Catch” if Rod Woodson had been covering him?
Clark made the famous play as a 49ers wide receiver. His playing days were ending as Woodson’s were beginning. Their paths would cross in other ways.
Clark was the 49ers director of football operations when they signed Woodson as a free agent in 1997. Later, as the personnel chief of the Browns, Woodson was a Ravens safety, their teams playing twice a year.
“Looking back,” Clark says now, “Rod was a phenomenal athlete. Just to watch him practice was amazing. When we had him with the 49ers, he had already been in the league for 10 years, but he was still so fluid.
“I remember him as an exceptional athlete who worked his (butt) off.
“He knew how to prepare. He was a great team player, a big-time leader. He knew what to say to guys.”
Woodson and Ronnie Lott, Clark’s teammate on Super Bowl-winning 49ers teams, both began their careers as cornerbacks and finished as safeties.
“They made the same change, but Ronnie made the change a lot sooner,” Clark said.
Woodson played cornerback 10 years for the Steelers, one year for the 49ers and two years for the Ravens before switching to safety in Baltimore’s Super Bowl season of 2000.
For that reason, Clark said, it’s hard to compare their careers.
The Browns were a second-year expansion team in 2000. A late 44-7 loss to Woodson and the Ravens went a long way toward costing coach Chris Palmer his job.
“We weren’t very good,” Clark said. “We couldn’t move the ball very well against that defense. (Woodson) was very effective at safety, partly because he had such a knowledge of the game.”
The 2000 Ravens, whose most important veteran leader was Woodson, saw themselves as one of history’s best defenses.
“I would think they were,” Clark said. “Talking around the building in Cleveland back then, the tone was that it was as good a group as you’d ever see.”