Approaching his ninth NFL season, the recently re-signed Ziggy Hood is currently the veteran leader on a defensive line that has gotten younger in recent weeks.
Despite just recently turning 30 years old, Washington Redskins defensive end Ziggy Hood feels like the "old man" along a defensive line that has seen its average age dip this offseason.
With Chris Baker departing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Ricky Jean Francois released on March 15 and the soon-to-be 34-year-old Kedric Golston still a free agent, Hood is the group's elder statesman.
In fact, Hood is the only defensive lineman among eight currently on the active roster that is 30 years old or older.
"I get to walk around saying uncle and nephew, but I don't think I'm that old," Hood said with a smile on a recent appearance on "Redskins Nation."
While Hood signed a reported two-year deal, his hope is that he can continue to contribute well into his 30s.
"Until my body fails," Hood said. "I follow the example of [Steelers linebacker] James Harrison, who is 38. He is probably going to go until he is 40 or even about 40. I follow his steps and make sure I keep my body in shape at all times."
Harrison recently re-signed with the Steelers, ensuring he'll remain an important cog on Pittsburgh's defense as he enters his 15th NFL season.
Hood said that Harrison – his teammate for five seasons – taught him the importance of hard work.
"If you want somebody who leads by example, it is him," Hood said. "He is not the rah-rah guy, but he silently leads by example and who better to follow."
Check out images of defensive lineman Ziggy Hood during his first few months with the Washington Redskins.
The Redskins will rely on Hood to lead a rebuilt defensive line that will feature quite a few new faces. Terrell McClain and Stacy McGee were both signed within 24 hours of free agency opening, and the coaching staff is optimistic about the potential of those signed earlier this year to Reserve/Future contracts.
As they work through OTAs together, Hood believes the defensive line needs to value the importance of chemistry.
"Everybody can work together so we can all move in the same direction," Hood said.
A strong performance from the defensive line season-long could be the difference for Washington in 2017.
"Some of the games defensively, we were so close," Hood said, reflecting on the 2016 season. "It was small things where we were an inch away or a yard; it was just the small things. We could have been there.
"I haven't gone a long way in a season since I left Pittsburgh. It's great to have that, but to see where we could have been would have been better. Hopefully, we continue this journey and work hard to make the playoffs or further than that."