Packers OLB Nick Perry ready to produce in 2013
By Rob Reischel of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
~GREEN BAY – Nick Perry majored in economics at the University of Southern California.
But when the Green Bay Packer outside linebacker tries explaining where he was mentally 12 months ago, he dials up a math analogy.
“I was in calculus 1 last year and I was drowning,” Perry said. “I’m above water now. I’m ready to move to calculus 2.”
There’s no doubt, calculus 1 — a.k.a., Perry’s rookie year — was a rough class. And the former first-round draft choice didn’t provide much help opposite Clay Matthews.
Mentally, Perry felt like he was always playing catch-up. The 6-foot-3, 265-pound Perry was making the switch from college defensive end, and the transition was rough.
Instead of just playing, he was always thinking. And on the field, he consistently felt a step slow.
Then came the physical woes.
Perry suffered a torn ligament in his left wrist in Week 2 against Chicago. He wore a cast and played through that, but suffered a knee injury at Houston in Week 6 that kept him out the next three games.
While the knee healed, the wrist didn’t. And in early November, Perry underwent wrist surgery and went on injured reserve.
That quickly, his rookie season was over. He had 29 tackles, two sacks, and weeks of frustration to show for it.
“What happened in the past was very bad, and I don’t want to do a rerun of that,” Perry said. “It wasn’t the best year. I would have liked to put in that time and just proved I can be a force.
“I had no control over anything. I couldn’t play, so I was pretty frustrated. Not being out there on the field and helping, that just kills you.”
Now it’s a new season, and Perry is downright giddy to get his shot.
Erik Walden, last season’s starter, left in free agency. Perry will get first crack at the job. And the Packers desperately need him to live up to his first-round billing.
In many ways, Perry is the type of wild-card player that could take Green Bay’s defense from mediocre to special.
“I expect him to get through this injury bug and come back and play and be a good player for the Packers,” Green Bay general manager Ted Thompson said earlier this off-season.
The highly-decorated Perry arrived in Green Bay with eye-popping workout numbers.
He bench-pressed 225 pounds 35 times at the 2012 NFL combine. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.58 seconds, a terrific time for a man his size.
Perry recorded 10-yard splits of 1.51 seconds, which was faster than several cornerbacks. And his score on the 50-question Wonderlic was a stellar 29.
Perry’s test numbers didn’t always lead to production on the field. And scouts had concerns about his effort level, as well as his ability to transition from a down lineman to playing in a two-point stance.
Perry started five of the Packers’ first six games and relied primarily on power — in both the run and pass game. This time around, he says he’ll have a lot more to offer.
“I’ve got a foundation under me right now,” Perry said. “There’s a lot of things I know now that I didn’t know last year.
“I try not to look back, just keep a positive mind. I don’t want to fill my head up with something that happened in the past. I’m just trying to stay positive and staying on that road. But I know I have the skills.”
Perry said he’s thought many times this off-season about Green Bay’s season-ending loss to San Francisco — and how he could have made a difference.
As Perry trained and rehabbed at Athletes’ Performance in Arizona this off-season, he often reflected on that playoff loss. He’s also thought about facing the 49ers in the season opener Sept. 8.
And he fully expects to be a game-changer.
“Those guys have it going on, and we need to catch them right now,” Perry said of the 49ers. “I figure we’ll face them twice this year. I’ll be ready.”
The Packers need Perry to be ready and highly productive.
Thompson didn’t use free agency to fix the defense. Instead, he’ll rely on young players like the 23-year-old Perry to make substantial improvement.
Perry knows he’s under the microscope now. NFL careers are done in a hiccup. There’s not much time to leave your mark, and he wants his time to start now.
“Everyone wants to be great,” Perry said. “It can go quick, so you have to make your mark while you can.
“We’ll see how things go. I’m humbled and thankful for the opportunities that are coming to me. I’m just ready to take that next step forward and show everybody what I can do.”
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