The timing couldn't have been better.
Just three days after veteran Packers defensive lineman was injured in the team's preseason win over the Oakland Raiders this past Friday, fellow defensive lineman Letroy Guion practiced for the first time on Monday since training camp opened in Green Bay.
It appears as if Raji will be lost for the season with a torn biceps, and Guion is being looked at to perhaps fill the void.
"It's always at an urgency when a man goes down," said Guion. "It makes me have to step up. I happen to be that guy, so I'm going to take all my steps forward to do what I got to do and get prepared."
Guion took the first step on Monday, coming off the Non-Football Injury (NFI) list with a hamstring pull reportedly suffered while training on his own during the offseason.
Monday ended what had been a disappointing training camp since being signed as a free agent back in March.
Time was running out for Guion to return for the Packers' all-important regular season opener against the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks in the NFL's annual Kickoff game on Thursday Sept. 4 in primetime.
No doubt about it, missing nearly a month of training camp was not the ideal way to begin his 2014 campaign, but for Guion, it's better late than never. And to hear him say it, Guion felt good taking part in his first practice.
"I feel like I'm in pretty good shape," said Guion. "I ran around today, huffing and puffing. My legs feel good, my body feels good, so I feel like I'm there physically."
Despite taking a big step forward on Monday, it was just one of many for the former Minnesota Vikings defensive lineman, where he spent the first six years of his career.
The coaching staff had Guion on a short leash at Monday's practice held at Ray Nitschke Field and open to the public, the first opportunity for fans and the media to see Guion since minicamp.
"I thought he looked explosive," said head coach Mike McCarthy. "I really liked what I saw from Letroy. Coming off the injury, I thought he got off to a good start. We're obviously limiting his reps, but I thought he had quality reps today."
Neither McCarthy nor Guion would say whether the defensive lineman would return in time to play in the Packers' preseason finale on Thursday against the Kansas City Chiefs.
According to McCarthy, how Guion fares in Wednesday's practice will determine if they allow him to see him in a game environment just three days removed from his first practice.
"He's going to be treated like every other player," said McCarthy. "There's a process that every one of our guys has gone through. You go back to the beginning of training camp, and we'll take another step further I guess it will be on Wednesday's practice and getting some more reps and keep progressing. But I think it would be foolish to throw him out there and give him a full load."
To be sure, Guion isn't guaranteed of a roster spot on the Packers' regular-season roster.
After missing nearly a month of practice, the Packers essentially have an unknown quantity on their hands. Over the course of the month of August, they've also seen the emergence of undrafted rookie Mike Pennel, who is making a major push to win a spot on the 53-man roster.
But Guion is also highly experienced, something Pennel and some of the other young defensive linemen don't have.
"I am very confident," said Guion. "I've been in the league at least seven years now, going on this year. I am very skilled, very talented at the position down there. So I'm just going to go out there and do what I got to do."
Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor at Cheesehead TV and its "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email [email protected].
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