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Packers LB Nick Perry Ready to Put Injuries Behind Him and Focus on Football

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Packers LB Nick Perry Ready to Put Injuries Behind Him and Focus on Football

Nick Perry of the Green Bay Packers by Benny Sieu—USA TODAY Sports.

Nick Perry of the Green Bay Packers by Benny Sieu—USA TODAY Sports.

Green Bay Packers linebacker Nick Perry practiced on Thursday for the first time since training camp opened.

On the eve of camp, Perry was placed on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list with foot and knee injuries, the same he dealt with last season.

That followed an offseason program in which Perry did not take part in a single practice, not a solitary Organized Team Activity or minicamp session. Perry has a lot to prove after missing so much time, but for one day, he could feel good about returning to action.

"We're just taking the right steps to move ahead and not worry about all the other stuff going on," said Perry. "And I think we're hitting a point where now we can really focus on football. I've been working my tail off, trying to get where I'm at now, and things are looking good now."

Perry followed in the footsteps of fellow outside linebacker Mike Neal, who also was activated off the PUP list a day prior.

Together they join one of the deepest positions on the Packers roster, at least in term of competition.

Good news for both of them, there appears to be no need to hold back despite the injuries that prevented the pair from practicing the first four days of camp.

"No restrictions," said head coach Mike McCarthy. "It was good to get Nick back out there. Mike obviously practiced yesterday, had a good day, did some really good things today, so you can't have enough really good football players."

The outside linebacker position is chock full of talent, following the additions of Julius Peppers in free agency, Carl Bradford in the NFL Draft and Adrian Hubbard and Jayrone Elliott in undrafted free agency.

That's not to mention holdovers like Clay Matthews, the highest-paid linebacker in the NFL, as well as second-year players Andy Mulumba and Nate Palmer.

One of the more anticipated developments of training camp, still waiting a full unveiling, is how the Packers potentially use Peppers, Perry and Neal as an "Elephant" in their defensive system, a hybrid end/outside linebacker. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers, however, is keeping some of his defensive secrets under wraps, not wanting opponents to know exactly what's coming. 

But there's one thing Green Bay can bank on: If all these aforementioned outside linebackers stay healthy and live up to expectations, the sky is the limit.

"It is," said Perry. "It's a lot scarier knowing we got guys that can really step up and do a lot for this defense and the whole team as well. So having that depth helps a lot."

Perry in particular is hoping for a dose of good health, above all. At seemingly every turn, just as Perry was starting to ramp up his play, he would run into a brick wall in the form of an injury.

In the sixth game of his rookie year, Perry suffered a broken wrist and was forced to spend the rest of the season on injured reserve. That was after he came up with two sacks in the first five games of his career.

Then in 2013, with Perry in the midst of his second year in the NFL, he was starting to put concerns about a lost rookie year behind him. During back-to-back games against the Detroit Lions and Baltimore Ravens in Weeks 6 and 7, Perry had a combined three sacks and two forced fumbles, the best two-game stretch of his young career.

Finally, the Packers saw a glimpse of the player they hoped they'd see from the first round of the 2012 draft. Unfortunately, Perry broke a bone in his heel against the Ravens and spent the rest of the season hobbled by the injury.

"There's always that notion that goes back that I think, 'Could I have been healthy, things would have been better for me,'" said Perry. "I haven't had the seasons I want due to that, but the main goal I have every year is stay healthy and play to the best of my ability and help my teammates any way I can. So I'm glad to be here, it's an honor to be here, and I'm ready to roll this year."

McCarthy couldn't agree any more. He knows injuries are a part of football.

Some players are more unlucky than others. It's not as if Perry was a victim of a soft-tissue injury that can be brought on on by poor conditioning, such as the pulled hamstrings that have plagued so many other players on the Packers roster.

Perry has had two broken bones in two season. Now they're healed, and the former USC product can look ahead to helping the 2014 version of the Packers.

"Availability is a primary focus for job responsibility, definitely," said McCarthy. "So we've obviously had some tough times in the past, but we feel like we're doing things to stay in front of that. Nick and some players go through an injury situations, one then two. Sometimes it just takes a little while to get off that cycle. So hopefully he's off that."

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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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (8) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Stroh's picture

Of course Capers/McCarthy are keeping things under wraps for now. So we may not know exactly what the plans are for Peppers, Perry and Neal, but from what they mentioned last season and in the offseason we can make some educated inferences about their responsibilities and positions.

Most Elephant Ends have always played on the Right side of the formation, but w/ the Packers that might change. They're not going to use the EE as just a RDE/ROLB.

Peppers... He's lined up at both ROLB and LOLB in the practice I saw last Sat. Its fair to assume he'll play on both side either at an OLB or DE. I think on run downs he'll be more of an OLB and on pass downs more as a DE and DT. IMO he'll play both side as well as all along the DL. Getting him some snaps at DT also makes a lot of sense w/ Matthew, Perry and Neal also able to play OLB or EE.

Perry... The coaches acknowledged in the offseason that Perry rushes the QB best from the right side. All his sacks last year came rushing from the right side. He also had a sack in the playoff game vs SF rushing from ROLB (on a stunt looping inside). Whether he lines up as a stand up OLB or w/ his hand on the ground as a DE per se, most of his playing time should come on the Right side. He's a one sided player, and the coaches need to get him rush as much as possible from that side.

Matthews... He and Peppers/Perry will work alternately as the OLB's. There's a very good chance that Matthews gets as many snaps on the Left side as he does Right. He can rush on either edge. He'll also get snaps as an ILB, as a "spy" on mobile QB or in coverage or blitzing from ILB.

Neal... the coaches talked last season about Neal lining up as a DT and rushing the QB inside. Its safe to say he'll get some snaps as a pass rushing DT, some as an OLB (mostly on the Left side IMO) opposite Perry possibly.

The snaps and rotation at DT (w/ Daniels, Datone, Neal and possibly Peppers and Raji) to get some pressure up the middle.

There's a lot to be determined in regards to rotations, snap counts and side adjustments among them, but there are a lot of movable pieces now that weren't available last year due to injury. The unpredictability of them is pretty interesting. It can give the D a much better rotation and variability that hasn't been the case in the past.

Really excited for the Defense this year!

Icebowler's picture

I hope Perry can improve his drop back coverage skills coming into his third season. I have less optimism that Neal can. If the opposing offense knows that only one or two Packer LB's (Jones and Mathews) are even capable of pass coverage, it limits our disguises on defense. Now that we have more pass rush options, I'd like to see Mathews move around a lot more from play to play and series to series. Drive the offenses nuts trying to figure out where he is on every play. If he gets a few less sacks but is batting down passes, tackling from sideline to sideline, and running back some interceptions, our defense could move close to or even into the top 10.

JimTaylor31's picture

Good point. Outside of CM we sure could use somebody who can both rush the passer and play in space. I'd even give up a little "rush the passer" for more "play in space".

L's picture

Remember though that with a little more "rush the passer" the players who are forced to "play in space" who aren't all that great at it don't have to "play in space" long given that there's suppose to be a lot of pressure on the QB to get ride of the ball asap with the defense's ability to "rush the passer".

JimTaylor31's picture

Remember I said a LITTLE "rush the passer". Fact is even with a lot of "rush the passer" it's not gonna always work against elite teams with elite OLs. You gotta have some balance. I'm not sure our LBs will give us the balance we need but time will tell. If Perry and/or Neal can play in space better than previous then the problem may be solved. Neal has lost a few pounds which should help with his quickness.

Stroh's picture

I think they're going to take the ILB off the field a lot more on passing downs this year. You could see Hyde actually line up as a pseudo-ILB in some packages. Matthews will likely slide inside on a lot more snaps now that we have other legit pass rushers. I think Matthews will be used in coverage much more this year w/ Peppers, Daniels, Datone, Neal, Perry, Raji and others getting more pass rush opportunities.

The Packers just have a lot more options pass rushing that this year, Matthews will actually play like a LB instead of a DE that only rushes the QB.

How about a line up that features Peppers LOLB, Daniels and Datone inside, Perry at ROLB and Hyde and Matthews lined up as LB's. That leaves as many as 5 DB's on the field too. Shields, Tramon, Hayward, Clinton-Dix and Burnett.

L's picture

Maybe they even have a package with M.Neal at LOLB w/ J.Peppers playing on the D-line as a DE along with D.Jones or BJ.Raji or J.Boyd and M.Daniels w/ N.Perry playing the ROLB role. That puts some serious pass rushing threats all along the front line and keeps some nice size on the edges too. Then as you mentioned they could have C.Matthews playing inside as sort of a spy linebacker for the QB or another potential threat out of the backfield or even as an inside blitzer and M.Hyde or S.Richardson in the hybrid-backer role to match-up with a potential TE or RB who might be looking to run a vertical seem or rail route down the inside. This leaves the team with the possibility to use either a single safety and a slot corner or simply go with two safeties in the defensive backfield. Regardless, I can't wait to see how D.Capers decides to mix and match players in different defensive packages this year.

The TKstinator's picture

Looks like GB has some intriguing options. We'd all love to see it go from "possibility" to "reality"!

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