- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 24, 2017

ASHBURN — It’s a rite of passage for the Redskins’ young defensive linemen, a kind of hazing ritual rookies unwittingly bring upon themselves.

They step into the Redskins weight room for a lift. Odds are, Ziggy Hood is already there. Full of youthful hubris, they try to go pound-for-pound with the 30-year-old defensive lineman.

“A lot of the young guys try to go toe to toe with him because all the young guys just want to be like the vets,” said second-year defensive lineman Matt Ioannidis.

It ends the same way every time.

“You can try,” Hood said, “but you cannot keep up with me.”

Hood is a gym-rat even by NFL standards. Once, the morning after a game, fellow lineman A.J. Francis came to the facility to use the cold tub and found Hood running 20 110-yard sprints inside the team’s practice bubble.

“Zig is an animal,” Francis said. “Zig is in his [ninth] year in the league for a reason. He puts the work in and he’s dedicated to his craft and he’s an animal, man.

“He needs to see a vet for his physical. He can’t see a regular doctor.”

It’s considered an accomplishment to bench press one’s own body weight. The 305-pound Hood can bench 450. He can squat 650, the weight of a mid-sized motorcycle. Hood talks about squats the way most people talk about chocolate.

Hood spent the first five years of his career with the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he watched how ageless linebacker James Harrison worked out and took care of his body. Younger and more easily tempted then, Hood took a cue from the veteran and decided to use Monday morning workouts to keep him from partying after a game.

Hood can’t bench press quite as much as he could during his first few years in the league, and he’s traded power cleans for resistance band work to protect his aging elbows. His strength is as much a part of his game as ever.

His 4.97 40-yard dash wasn’t what got Hood drafted in the first round, 32nd overall, out of Missouri in 2009. In an era where linemen are smaller but faster, that number is obsolete for a first-round pick. Hood’s time would have ranked No. 37 out of 51 defensive linemen who ran the 40 at this year’s combine. Hood has lasted nearly a decade anyway. His muscles are strong enough to make up for whatever quick-twitch fibers he lacks.

Hood is behind Phil Taylor Sr. as the Redskins nose tackle in their base 3-4 defense, and can stay on the field as a tackle in sub packages. Hood also played end for several of his years in Pittsburgh.

“If my speed is not good enough, best believe I will be one of the strongest guys out there,” Hood said.

Hood’s zeal in the weight room has rubbed off on other defensive linemen. They never see him miss a workout or enjoy a breather if the weights don’t feel heavy enough for a set. They hear him grunting and asking for more.

“It’s almost like he’s mad at the weights,” Ioannidis said.

Coaches have commented that Ioannidis is stronger. Anthony Lanier gained weight, all of it muscle.

“You see the progress of all of the defensive linemen in the strength room and it starts with Ziggy,” coach Jay Gruden said. “He’s the guy who works the hardest. We’re happy to have him. He’s a great leader for us.”

Doug Williams, Washington’s senior vice president of player personnel, agreed.

“It’s led by Ziggy Hood,” Williams said. “He’s a great example for those guys, those young guys, with his work habits in the weight room. He takes them all under his wing.”

Hood doesn’t pressure his teammates to add more weight, because they could get hurt. He might ask for an extra rep, but he usually doesn’t need to. Older teammates might not make as obvious a show of things as the rookies, but they want to show they can keep pace with Hood too — at least to a certain extent.

“I’ve gone in the weight room, right? And been like, ‘I’m going to squat 500 today,’” Francis said. “Then I see Zig squatting 600 and I’m like, ‘I’m going to squat 600 today.’”

“I see Zig squatting 650,” he said, grinning, “I’m going to squat 600 today.”

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