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|09-27-2009, 12:03 AM||#1|
A Son of Martha
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Beefed-up DE Odom leading league in sacks
Beefed-up DE Odom leading league in sacks
By The Associated Press
Sunday, September 27, 2009
CINCINNATI — Antwan Odom was the most noticeable player in the Cincinnati Bengals' training camp, and not just because he looked a whole lot bigger.
The defensive end zipped from dorm room to cafeteria to locker room on a two-wheel transport he brought to camp, letting him get anywhere he wanted without delay. He's doing the same thing — without the wheels — in the regular season.
After two games, Odom leads the NFL with seven sacks. He tied the club record with five on Sunday during a 31-24 victory at Green Bay, taking advantage after the Packers lost their veteran left tackle and had to shuffle the line.
Just like training camp, he stood out in the crowd.
"I'm the type of guy, I dodge the media a little bit, so they say," Odom said. "But it feels pretty good to get noticed."
Avoiding attention wasn't a problem last year, when the 28-year-old lineman got the biggest contract of his career, then did very little because of injuries. What he thought would be the culmination of a career built upon rushing the passer came crashing down.
The Bengals signed him to a five-year, $29.5 million deal as a free agent from Tennessee before last season, giving him $11.5 million guaranteed to fix their biggest problem. They hadn't been able to pressure the quarterback without blitzing, a poor reflection on the defensive line.
Big things were expected of Odom, who had a career-high eight sacks for the Titans the previous year. Instead, bad things happened right away. His new teammates watched him leave the field on a cart after he severely sprained his left foot during his first practice in training camp.
The foot injury lingered. A shoulder injury also cost him four games late in a 4-11-1 season that represented a giant step backward for the Bengals. No one was more miserable than Odom, who finished with three sacks.
"It was really frustrating," he said. "I came in here and was their big signing of the year and I get hurt the first day of training camp. That put my mind in a different place, and I just want to come back off of that."
Coach Marvin Lewis could see it wear on Odom.
"Last year was a frustrating year for him," Lewis said. "We bring him in here, expect him to amp up our pass rush, and he gets injured time and time again. That's a frustrating thing because people are saying, 'Hey, there's Odom, is he this or is he that?"'
Odom decided he was too small at 250 pounds. He spent the offseason adding weight and upper-body strength to help him push past blockers. He also was careful to keep his legs fresh — that two-wheel transport helped in training camp.
"I put on 30 pounds, and that's helped me a lot," he said. "I could tell there was a big difference in my performance. It's something I wanted to do on my own because last year, I was getting pushed around. A little weight helps."
So does lining up against an inexperienced tackle.
Odom had two sacks in an opening 12-7 loss to Denver, then got a chance to throw his weight around at Lambeau Field. Odom had one sack in the first half against veteran left tackle Chad Clifton, who sprained his right ankle on the opening series of the second half.
The Packers shuffled their line, bringing Scott Wells off the bench to play center, moving center Jason Spitz to left guard, and sliding left guard Daryn Colledge over to tackle. Odom had four sacks against Colledge, who didn't get much help and had several meltdowns.
"It was just fate, I guess," Odom said. "I guess they believed in him and they thought he could block me one on one."
The five sacks matched Eddie Edwards' club record from 1980. His seven sacks are the most for an NFL player after the opening two games of the season since sacks became an official league statistic in 1982. It was the best one-game sack total by an NFL player since the Giants' Osi Umenyiora had six in 2007.
After going anyplace he wanted on Lambeau Field, Odom found himself the center of attention — a place he'd rather avoid.
"If this happens again, I would just go home and lock the door and cut my phones off, try to enjoy it by myself, really," Odom said. "It got pretty crazy. I got in from the locker room and I had like 35 text messages, missed calls and stuff like that."
His teammates and coaches understand the commotion.
"I'm glad for Antwan because he had to persevere through some tough things and now he's kind of doing the things we expected him to do when we brought him in here," Lewis said. "I think that's what this is all about."
On the field, Odom is bound to get more attention for the rest of the season, making it tougher to get to the quarterback.
"I try to get two sacks a game," Odom said. "It's a high goal, but if I achieve that, I'll be where I want to be at the end of the year. At the end of the year if I can be the sack leader, then it will mean something. But right now, we've still got a lot of games to play."
The Associated Press can be reached at or .
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