Josh Woods spent his career trying to earn a full-time defensive job, and as soon as the linebacker did so with the Cardinals, he hurt his ankle in the season opener.
"I went down a rabbit hole, but I had to come back out of it," Woods said. "I noticed a lot of guys that look up to me around this building, and just overall bad for morale if I'm sulking. Like, it's not about me. I'm trying to help the next guy, whoever is about to fill my shoes."
"You come into the building the next day, that positivity mindset, just being a light for everybody else around me. Okay, I can't impact the team on the field, so let me figure out a way to impact it off the field."
Woods finally returned Sunday against the Bengals, a game in which he had five tackles -- although the defense didn't have the most impressive outing. Joe Burrow had his best game of the season. Wideout Ja'Marr Chase had arguably his best game of his career with 15 catches, 192 yards and three touchdowns.
Woods sat in the media room Monday, however, and he wore a smile.
The reason for optimism?
"When a flower is growing, the roots grow first," Woods said defensive coordinator Nick Rallis told his unit. "Even though you might not see the outcome, the result that you want, the beautiful budding flower, just know that the foundation is being set."
Before he was a Cardinal, Woods was a member of the Detroit Lions, who are now 4-1 and sit atop the NFC North. He said that's a team that stuck to their process and allowed the flower to fully bloom.
In his eyes, his current team could do that as well.
"We've been in every game that we've played, and I don't think any team has just outright beat us," Woods said. "I feel like we've kind of beat ourselves in terms of just not executing things here or there or whatever. There's hope in that."
But the great Ted Lasso once said that "it's the hope that kills you," and the emotion has certainly made these losses sting a bit more. The Cardinals have been outscored 54-7 in the fourth quarter, and it's a large part of the team's 1-4 record.
Jonathan Gannon, being a defensive-minded head coach, has been prideful and critical of the defensive product the Cardinals have put onto the field. The Cardinals' best on defense, and the root of the flower, will strengthen once injured players like Budda Baker and Jonathan Ledbetter return.
"The foundation of how we're playing defense is we play hard, we tackle pretty well, we're violent, our effort is there," Gannon said. "We just got to clean up a few things."
One of Gannon's core statements has also been about the journey. Woods and his teammates have embraced that challenge.
"Just trust the process and continue to get better do your part to get better," Woods said. "It will turn a corner."
The top images taken by the Cardinals team photographer during the 2023 Week 5 regular season game against Cincinnati, presented by Earnhardt Auto Centers.