PITTSBURGH (AP) _ Everybody in the NFL seems to think Rod Woodson is out for the season _ except Rod Woodson.

Woodson, still on crutches and only 10 days removed from reconstructive knee surgery, is hopeful of returning by the playoffs and has convinced Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher not to deactivate him.

Cowher will keep the All-Pro cornerback's roster spot open for at least three weeks before deciding if Woodson could possibly return this season.

``We'll see how it works out for the team,'' Woodson said Wednesday. ``If guys don't get injured they can (keep him activated). It all really depends on injuries.''

Woodson tore his anterior cruciate ligament Sept. 3 chasing down the Lions' Barry Sanders on the Steelers' eighth defensive play of the season. The injury is one of the most serious an athlete can suffer, and usually requires months of extensive rehabilitation.

Woodson won't be off crutches for another month and can't begin extensive rehab until then, but already is lifting weights to prevent atrophy in his leg muscles. He will soon begin jogging and riding a stationary bike.

Woodson is so involved in the diagnosis and analysis of his injury, he even watched as Dr. Richard Steadman operated on the knee Sept. 11 in Vail, Colo. He received a local anesthetic and was fully alert throughout the operation.

``Hey, I have to see what they're doing in there,'' Woodson said. ``I wanted to make sure they weren't making any mistakes. I was just trying to figure out what's in there.''

Steadman replaced the damaged anterior cruciate ligament with a patella tendon from Woodson's right knee.

One of the NFL's best-conditioned athletes, Woodson is a former world-class sprinter who had never been seriously injured until this season.

``You're depressed for a while. I felt maybe it wasn't really happening,'' he said. ``But you have to be mentally strong. If you're not mentally strong, your body can't be strong. I know it happened, I have to deal with it and start with the rehabilitation.''

Unlike some athletes who won't watch a play on which they were injured, Woodson has watched a replay of his aborted tackle of Sanders. Woodson's right leg became stuck in the Three Rivers Stadium artificial turf and gave way as he attempted to change direction and arm tackle Sanders.

Woodson, visiting the locker room Wednesday for the first time since his injury, plans to return regularly once he is off crutches _ but he won't do any coaching of the Steelers' young cornerbacks.

Or any cheerleading, either.

``I'll leave that to Greg Lloyd,'' he said.