RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The signature play from Corey Wootton’s six-year NFL career almost never happened.
Even the Rutherford native and former Don Bosco star does not remember why.
Wootton, 29, announced his retirement last month after a career in which he played for the Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions. In a game on Dec. 20, 2010 Wootton sacked Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre during the second quarter of a game in Minnesota. Favre never played again in the NFL.
“On that play we had to call timeout because I had to go in for (Julius) Peppers,’’ said Wootton, a rookie from Northwestern at the time. “I wasn’t paying attention. I don’t remember what I was doing. We called timeout and Rod Marinelli (the defensive coordinator) was chewing my ear out. He said you’d better make a play, and I was nervous, thinking they might not play me again. I remember the ball bouncing out, but I didn’t know if it was a sack. I asked teammates and they said it was.”
Wootton beat the left tackle and tackled Favre, whose head landed hard on the playing surface. Favre left the game with a concussion and did not return.
“It’s unfortunate he went down with a concussion,’’ Wootton said. “The surface was so hard.”
The play might be the most memorable one ever for Wootton, who went on to have four solid years with the Bears. He played for one year in Minnesota and in 2015 signed a one-year deal with Detroit. He never played a regular season game with the Lions after tearing a pectoral muscle in the final preseason game.
Wootton cited a desire to spend more time with his wife, Felicia, and one-year-old daughter as his his reason to retire. He knew he was reaching the end of the road last year when he waited until the final minute to leave for training camp.
“It opened my eyes and changed my perspective,’’ Wootton said. “When you have a child, you want to live as long as you can and live a long, healthy life. I knew once I ended up on injured reserve last year that I wanted to spend more time with my wife and daughter. I kind of knew it was time to hang it up.”
Wootton feels fortunate to have spent the majority of his career in Chicago, where he played with a probable Hall-of-Famer in Brian Urlacher and for a highly-regarded defensive-minded coach in Lovie Smith. The Bears went 11-5 in Wootton’s first season with the team, and finished 10-6 in 2012 but ended up missing the playoffs.
“It was incredible playing in Chicago,’’ Wootton said. “The thing about Brian Urlacher is as much fame as he has, he’s one of the nicest guys in the world. He was somebody that I grew up watching and he was the best teammate. He knew what was going to happen before it happened.”
The Bears drafted Wootton in the fourth round in 2010, and he liked playing in Smith’s system. “In 2012, we had one of the best years of any defensive unit and won 10 games but still didn’t make the playoffs. Sometimes it’s a tough pill to swallow,'' Wootton said.
Wootton said he’ll miss the locker room camaraderie the most as he enters retirement. But he was already enjoying August, the first time in more than 20 years when he did not have to report to a football camp.
Wootton said he’d love to work in television as an NFL commentator. He currently lives in St. Louis, and is sorting out options.
“We’ll see what opportunities are out there,’’ he said. “Right now I’m focusing on my family. Not every can spend the entire day with their wife and daughter. I definitely want to stay involved in the game. It’s a passion of mine and always will be. Even when I was playing I would watch every game. Maybe now I’ll even be able to go to the games and tailgate with fans. That would be fun. I’ve never been able to do that.”
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