Wooten retiring from Ravens; Personnel assistant leaving after 36 years of service in NFL


John Wooten will put himself ahead of the NFL for the first time in nearly four decades.

Wooten, the Ravens' assistant director of pro personnel, will retire May 23 and end his 36-year tenure in the league.

He set the tone for his career as a hard-nosed Cleveland Browns right guard from 1959 to 1968 which was followed by two decades on another front line, as a scout with the Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles and the Ravens.

"He stands the test of time," said David Modell, the Ravens' president and chief operating officer. "John is a true, true NFL warrior. He continues to attack his job as much as he did the defensive line."

The teams and job titles may have changed, but the routine remained the same.

Wooten, 63, attended practices during the week and then traveled wherever his team's next opponent played to form an advance scouting report. The day before the game, he would catch any college games in that area to watch draft prospects.

He returned Monday to give the coaching staff its first look at the upcoming opponent, breaking down its tendencies. Besides those road trips, Wooten would go to the three college all-star games as well as the combine, meaning over half of his weekends each year were spent away from home.

"That's the history of scouting," Wooten said. "There's no other way to do it. You have to go and see it. I like the way we do it. I believe in the way we do it. The real part of scouting is knowing people. To me, that's what scouting really is."

Wooten knows the right time to bow out, too.

"I've been on this side of the ball since 1975," said Wooten, who is looking forward to seeing a lot more of his wife and three children. "In a sense, I feel it's time to move on. If you've been going as long as I've been going, you just want to go home and relax for a while."

Wooten had a major part in convincing defensive tackle Sam Adams to sign as a free agent with the Ravens Saturday.

Wooten was in the Ravens' draft war room during the weekend, throwing in his advice when needed and manning the phones for possible deals.

It was this situation 10 years ago where Wooten had one of his favorite NFL memories.

Sitting next to then-Dallas coach Jimmy Johnson, Wooten received a call from Pittsburgh's Tom Donahoe with the Steelers on the clock. Donahoe wanted to take Wooten up on a week-old offer of swapping first-round positions for the Cowboys' third-round pick.

After getting the go-ahead from Johnson, Wooten moved Dallas up to the 17th spot in the first round, where the Cowboys nabbed future Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith.

Wooten, however, garnered little attention. But he didn't receive too many accolades for his blocks that freed Jim Brown either.

"There is a saying that lives with me everyday: You can accomplish whatever you want to accomplish as long as you don't care who gets the credit," said Wooten, who is in his third season with the Ravens. "We lived under that in the early 60s and won a few championships. That just carried over to the way I see things in life."

For the Ravens, Wooten has been an integral part in draft decisions, analyzing free-agent workouts as well as serving on the committee that selected Brian Billick as coach last year.

"It's been a lot of fun," Wooten said.

After the Ravens' passing camp in late May, Wooten will head back to Dallas, where he still has a home and a small printing company. But he won't be able to leave that easily, expecting to receive some calls from the Ravens to scout a few games on weekends.

"This organization is significantly much better off with John having been here," Modell said. "And don't be surprised if he's helping out more than what he thinks right now."

J. Lewis contract status

New Orleans Saints running back Ricky Williams received a nearly $9 million signing bonus last year as the fifth overall pick in the draft. Mitch Frankel, the agent for Tennessee running back Jamal Lewis, said he won't use that as a barometer. Lewis was the No. 5 overall pick Saturday by the Ravens.

"That won't have any effect," said Frankel. "I didn't think the Ricky Williams deal was a good contract. It was one of the poorest in the history of the draft."

Frankel said he didn't foresee any problem getting Lewis to training camp on time.

"I have a good relationship with the Ravens," said Frankel, who represents fullback Chuck Evans and running back Priest Holmes.

"The goal is always to get them there on time," he said.

Et cetera

The Ravens were happy yesterday with their rookie pool number to sign their six drafted rookies. The Ravens have about $4 million, a number which is designated by the league. Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens' vice president of player personnel, said he expects to have preliminary talks with left offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden about a contract extension by June 1. The Ravens would like a deal completed by August.

The team will have a minicamp weekend on April 28-30, then a veteran minicamp June 12-15. Ravens coach Brian Billick will have two passing camps, one May 15-18, then again June 5-8.

Sun staff writer Mike Preston contributed to this article.

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