Nick Perry is counting on being a difference-maker in season two
By Jason Wilde of ESPN Wisconsin
~GREEN BAY – Nick Perry walked into the locker room after an organized team activity practice last month and there was impossible not to notice how different he looked. It had been harder while he was on the field, even though he was only wearing a jersey, shorts and a helmet, but in normal civilian clothes – a fitted t-shirt and sweats – the difference was striking.
You look great, someone told him.
“Oh yeah? Thank you,” the Green Bay Packers second-year outside linebacker replied with a smile. “Just playing games out there, it takes a toll on you, having all that weight on you running around. So I trimmed down a little bit, but I’m still strong, still explosive. Those things might even be multiplied. It’s just been taking care of my body and looking forward to the season. Everything is going good. I feel great.”
And others have noticed the change in appearance, too.
“Absolutely. He looks different, he moves different,” outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene said. “To me, he moves with more of a sense of urgency and purpose. His eyes are different. His jaw set, his gaze is different. I can just look in his face and look in his eyes and see that he’s not happy with what transpired last year and he’s determined not to let that happen again. I really feel good about where Nick is at this point.”
On the team roster at Packers.com, Perry is still listed at 6-foot-3 and 265 pounds, although it’s possible the website staff hasn’t gotten updated heights and weights yet in advance of Friday’s opening training-camp practice.
The Packers’ 2012 first-round draft pick estimated he was “probably around 260-ish” at OTAs, meaning he had to have been playing at or north of 270 last season. That, of course, would make sense, since coming out of USC Perry was hoping to go to a 4-3 defense where he could play defensive end.
“I just came in bigger,” Perry said of last season. “I thought that I felt comfortable playing the position.”
Whatever his weight was, Perry was just starting to look more comfortable at outside linebacker when his season ended. He left the Oct. 14 game at Houston with a knee injury, but it turned out it wasn’t his knee that was the problem – it was his wrist, which he’d injured in the Sept. 9 regular-season opener and played through. He wound up undergoing season-ending surgery that week and wasn’t heard from again.
Now, the Packers not only need him healthy, but need him to be the difference-making player they hoped they were getting when they took him in the first round. The team is conspicuously thin at the position – after Perry and Clay Matthews, only Dezman Moses is a quasi-proven commodity. (Inside linebackers Brad Jones and Jamari Lattimore were moved from the outside and could move back in a pinch.)
“When it was taken away, it was devastating, just because I never have been out. So I was pretty bitter and pretty pissed that I couldn’t get on the field and help,” Perry said of last season. “Now, I’m back, back in the mix of things, and I’m still, I still have a (monkey) on my back because I still have something to prove, I have to stay healthy and do what I need to do.”
While they knew there would be growing pains as he transitioned to outside linebacker, it appeared Perry was turning the corner at the time of his injury. Against the Indianapolis Colts on Oct. 7, not only did he have a violent sack of quarterback Andrew Luck (one that drew a questionable personal foul and fine) but he also showed what he could do in coverage, working against the tight end but also carrying wide receiver Reggie Wayne downfield on a play. For a guy who looked completely out of sorts the first time he dropped into coverage at the rookie orientation camp and still in training camp, it was a significant step forward.
“I think that’s as good as it gets. He carried the wide receiver vertical in a hip-trail position. He covered the tight end outside-in and covered him on a center route and Clay comes in and got a sack on it,” Greene said. “Yeah, he can do everything he needs to do.”
Although Perry won’t have to do everything wearing the protective cast that he wore throughout OTAs and minicamp – and will wear for every training-camp practice, too – he said he will always wear something to protect himself.
“I do that (wear a cast) only in practice. I’m doing everything else without it,” Perry said. “Things are coming along great. I’m just trying to protect myself out here because freak accidents can happen any given day. It won’t be a cast like that (in games), but most importantly protecting myself with anything I’m doing now, just my first time having surgery, I want to make sure I’m protecting my body. You have to protect your hands.”
Perry finished his rookie season having played 211 snaps, per ProFootballFocus.com. He was credited by the Packers with 29 tackles and two sacks in six games – numbers that all must go up for the defense to be better this season. ProFootballFocus.com also had him for 10 quarterback hurries, one batted pass and zero missed tackles. The question is ….. Full story HERE