My Cousin Vinny on the Packers Radar?
By Ty Dunne, JSOnline
~Green Bay – Deep down inside, there were so many other things Vinny Curry wanted to ask Green Bay Packers outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene.
He admired Greene, the linebacker. But he also was a huge fan of Kevin Greene, the short-lived wrestler. Those tag-team days with Steve McMichael. Trading body blows with Ric Flair. The Marshall defensive lineman would have loved to discuss power-slams, leg-locks and funky costumes.
But not yet. Not with so much on the line in 15 precious minutes at the scouting combine.
This was a job interview.
“Strictly football,” Curry said. “We talked about me coming off the edge for the Green Bay Packers.”
Maybe the two will get a chance to talk wrestling soon. Curry is another pass rusher in the draft mix for Green Bay.
It’s hard to say who will trickle down to the 28th overall pick. There’s a reasonable chance South Carolina’s Melvin Ingram, Alabama’s Courtney Upshaw, Illinois’ Whitney Mercilus and USC’s Nick Perry will be long gone. And right now, Boise State’s Shea McClellin can do no wrong.
As general manager Ted Thompson said Thursday, you can never predict the NFL draft. Curry may be the team’s best bet at landing a pure edge rusher. His stock fell after a rough combine and rose with a strong pro day. Curry says his small-school background drives him and that is what can separate him from the pack.
“I feel like I’m the most consistent pass rusher in this draft,” Curry said. “I play every down like it’s my last. I have some great passion for the game and can bring things to the table, making great plays on the field opposite of Mr. (Clay) Matthews.”
At Marshall, Curry started three seasons – one at outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme and two at defensive end. Given the green light to rush, he flourished. The last two seasons, Curry totaled 171 tackles (40 for loss) with 23 sacks. Unlike Perry or Ingram, he doesn’t flaunt world-class athleticism. Unlike Mercilus, he didn’t face towering tackles each Saturday.
So Curry hopes his no-plays-off mentality is the difference.
Packers defensive end Johnny Jones, who spent 2011 on the practice squad, played alongside Curry at Marshall. They’re close friends who would love to reunite. After seeing the speed of the pro game up close, Jones says Curry’s pass-rushing talents can adapt.
“I think it will,” Jones said. “It’s just a matter of time learning the ins and outs and technique. But he has natural pass-rushing ability and is relentless. And he has that get-off. It’s all about the learning curve. If he picks it up, he’ll play in this league for a long time.”
The learning curve may come in “getting off blocks,” Jones added. In the NFL, the linemen are much bigger and faster than what they faced in Conference USA. That’s why Curry’s 40-yard dash time at the combine raised so many eyebrows.
In Indianapolis – as Perry put on a clinic – Curry clocked in at 4.98 seconds. The conference defensive player of the year said the poor time was a result of tripping up toward the end. Three weeks later, at his pro day, Curry rebounded. He reportedly ran the 40 in 4.64 seconds, bench-pressed 225 pounds 28 times and had a vertical leap of 35 inches.
So during this wild, unpredictable Wall Street-like stretch, Curry’s stock is rising again. Longtime NFL executive Gil Brandt now ranks the 6-foot-3, 266-pounder as the 43rd-best prospect.
Curry says his 40 times are usually in the 4.6 range, a product of his quick first step. As a 3-4 outside linebacker, that’s critical.
“The thing that pass rushing is, is get off,” Curry said. “If you can get off the football, you have a 99% chance of winning that pass-rushing battle. It’s all about get-off. That’s what I pride myself on.”
Maybe it’s a similar mentality. Or, well, madness. But Curry, like Greene, is drawn to the ring.
Whenever he is done with football, he plans to go straight to WWE. He has the personality to do it. Curry once showed up to an interview session at Marshall in a Nature Boy-esque, white-and-pink robe. Yes, the sport is fake. Theater. But as Curry points out, all of those wrestlers are athletes, too. The job takes very real acrobatics, and very real courage.
So until then, he’ll try bringing it to the football field. Curry already is envisioning himself opposite Matthews.
“With him getting the majority of the double-teams and the pass protection sliding his way,” Curry said, “that will certainly create opportunities for me to make plays for my team.”
More important, he wants to match Matthews’ energy. At Marshall, that was his focus.
Like many prospects from mid-majors, Curry is raw. There is risk. Patience and strong coaching will be essential. But Curry doesn’t apologize for that mid-major experience. It’s what helped him get here.
“I don’t want you seeing me sacking the quarterback one play,” Curry said, “and the next three plays you see me lollygagging or trotting or jogging. I should be going as hard as I was in the first quarter in the fourth quarter.”
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