When training camp opened, it wasn't guaranteed Sean Richardson would even make the Packers' regular-season roster, let alone receive regular playing time.
Nearly two weeks into camp, however, Richardson has made the most of his opportunities, going so far as to receive praise from the head coach.
"I tell you what, Sean Richardson's had a helluva training camp," said Mike McCarthy. "I've been impressed with him both defensively and special teams. He needed to pick it up on special teams, and Sean's done a lot of good things."
At last week's annual Family Night event inside Lambeau Field, Richardson made perhaps the play of the day, covering a large amount of ground from his spot in zone coverage deep in the secondary to break up a pass along the sideline.
Richadson has also reportedly made a couple interceptions during team drills during training camp, and considering the Packers didn't get a single interception last season from the safety position, that's been a welcome addition to the team's defense.
"I just come to work every day and continue to try to get better and help the team out any way I can," said Richardson.
Based on his performance in the first two weeks of training camp, it appears Richardson is a near-lock to make the Packers' 53-man roster and is pushing for a role on the defensive side of the football, if not the starting lineup.
Now that it's been announced fellow safeties Morgan Burnett and Tanner Miller will be missing Saturday evening's preseason opener against the Tennessee Titans, Richardson looks to be in line for increased playing time in his 2014 debut.
Micah Hyde and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix have been working as the first-string tandem in Burnett's absence, but after they exit the game, Richardson should receive ample opportunities to prove himself in a game environment.
Perhaps part of the reason Richardson is just starting to make his presence felt is his participation in the entire Packers' offseason program, an opportunity not afforded to him a season ago due to his back injury suffered during the 2012 season and recovery from the subsequent spinal-fusion surgery.
Richardson was able to return at midseason last year after beginning the season on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, making his first appearance on Nov. 24, nearly a year to the day after originally injuring his back.
When Richardson came back last season, he found himself not quite prepared for the rigors of professional football.
"Last year when I got back, I was in shape, but I wasn't in football shape," said Richardson. "After a few plays, I would get gassed or something, a little tired. I told myself this year I'm going to try to get in the best shape possible football-wise and be able to make all my plays and make all the plays count and not having to worry about being tired or not having any energy to produce."
There have been no signs of Richardson being tired thus far into training camp. He is indeed making plays, and that's coming as no surprise to his teammates.
"You see it in him," said Burnett. "He's never down on himself. Coming in from Day 1, you knew he was a great athlete. It's all about a matter of time with him, you knew Sean was going to come in and do his job."
Seizing a job on the Green Bay defense is still open to Richardson, whether as a starter or in defensive coordinator Dom Capers' subpackages.
The Packers never line up with 11 players taking all the snaps. Plenty of opportunties exist on the nickel and dime formations on defense for extra defensive backs to come on the field.
This year, more than previous years, McCarthy has stressed the need to prepare more players for a role on defense, and Richardson could be the beneficiary.
"I just go out," said Richardson, "work on the technique, the things I've been taught to do and do my assignment and let my athleticism, my ability and my experience help me out with making plays."
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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