Danny Woodhead sticking to routine

BRISTOL, Conn. -- Running back Danny Woodhead might not be part of the New England Patriots' offseason program, but he's doing his best to simulate it. His alarm clock is proof of that.

"I work out at 6 o'clock in the morning," Woodhead said Tuesday during a visit to ESPN headquarters. "I'm the type of guy who likes to stay in the same routine, and that's when I would get up during the season. So I just stick with it."

At a time when NFL players are locked out, unable to be part of structured workout programs that have become a significant part of each offseason, it can lead to concern among coaches as to how those on their roster will respond. Bill Belichick, it seems, need not worry about Woodhead.

No surprise there.

Despite his unexpected emergence with the Patriots last season, in which he became a fan favorite, Woodhead still views himself as an underdog.

"I'm an undrafted free agent, and I want that to always be in the back of my mind," he responded when asked if he feels any added security after signing a contract extension through 2012. "I want to have that same feeling, to keep pushing me. I don't think I'll ever feel comfortable."

So the alarm clock goes off early each day in Nebraska, where Woodhead has been located for a good part of the offseason. The chance to be closer to his family makes it the best place to be for him and his wife, Stacia, at this time. He explained that his day starts with a workout, then is usually filled with other family-based chores.

"Nebraska is just home," said Woodhead, who is a native of North Platte, which is located in the central part of the state. "During the season, you really don't have a lot of time to visit family, or any time at all."

Soon enough, Woodhead plans to return to Foxborough, Mass., where he exploded onto the scene last year, rushing for 547 yards and five touchdowns, while adding 379 receiving yards and a touchdown. He said he hasn't set any specific goals for 2011, instead focusing on whatever it takes to help the Patriots win.

Like other players, he receives news on the lockout from the media, as he hasn't been in contact with the team since the season ended. He views it as a test of a player's professionalism.

"It makes things tough that we don't have offseason workouts, but all of us players have to take it upon ourselves to make sure we're working out and make sure we're getting ready for next year," he said. "Football is obviously still my job, even though we're not at the facility now.

"My approach is do what it takes to get my body ready for football. The season obviously doesn't start tomorrow, but if it did, I want to make sure my body can take it. That's really all I can do right now, make sure my body will be ready."

Along those lines, Woodhead is currently 203 pounds. So while his diminutive stature often draws attention (he's listed at 5-foot-8), it's not as if he isn't sturdy enough to absorb some big hits from NFL defenders.

Woodhead said he enjoyed his visit to ESPN -- especially his appearance on "SportsNation" -- which was tied to the possibility that he could be on the cover of the "Madden '12" video game. As part of a contest in which fans can vote online on ESPN.com, Woodhead has advanced through the first two rounds -- beating Bills receiver Steve Johnson and Giants receiver Hakeem Nicks -- and now faces Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

"Shoot, if I got on the cover of 'Madden,' that would be pretty neat," he said. "But it's seriously not something I've thought about at all."

Some view the cover as a jinx.

"I've never really thought of that as a jinx," Woodhead responded. "I'm not one to look into curses too much."

Mike Reiss covers the Patriots for ESPNBoston.com.