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    The festivities will take place at two different locations in the Tampa Bay area Saturday. The main pep rally will be held from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. EST at Ferg’s Sports Bar & Grill, located at 1320 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, Fla. The second event will be held from 8:15 to 9 p.m. at The Varsity Club, located at 24091 US Hwy 19 N., Clearwater, Fla.

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Manning believes he belonged at top

Posted Apr 28, 2012

Waiting to get picked, North Carolina State linebacker Terrell Manning called Saturday “definitely the longest day of my life.”

He was as glad as anyone Packers General Manager Ted Thompson wasn’t done trading his way around the draft board.

Hoping to get drafted in the second or third round, Manning was still on the board in the fifth when Thompson traded up for the third time in the last two days. He nabbed Manning with the 163rd overall pick, the Packers’ sixth defensive selection out of six picks thus far in the draft.

After trading up twice on Friday, Thompson came into Saturday with only three possible picks he could trade (he couldn’t trade his four compensatory selections), and he packaged all three of them – a sixth-rounder (No. 197) and two sevenths (Nos. 224 and 235) – for pick 163 from the Patriots, coincidentally a pick the Packers originally owned and had traded to the Patriots on Friday.

“It was just a situation where we felt a player was being undervalued a little bit,” Thompson said. “We didn’t know how long he would be undervalued.”

Manning would agree with Thompson’s assessment. Speaking with no shortage of confidence in his abilities, Manning was disappointed if not in disbelief at some of the other linebackers he saw drafted ahead of him.

“I feel like I was as good as any linebacker in this draft,” he said. “I’m looking to prove that.”

An early entry in the draft after playing three seasons at N.C. State, the last two as a starter, Manning was the type of college linebacker who filled the stat sheet.

Over his career, he recorded 10 sacks, 27½ tackles for loss, eight forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries and five interceptions. A weak-side linebacker in the Wolfpack’s 4-3 scheme, the Packers see Manning as an inside linebacker in their 3-4. He’ll be thrown into competition in a group that includes starters Desmond Bishop and A.J. Hawk, plus Robert Francois and D.J. Smith, a sixth-round pick a year ago.

“I think he’s going to be a good addition, and I think he’s going to press the guys who are in the room right now,” inside linebackers coach and assistant head coach Winston Moss said. “All he needs to do is just bring his best game. We’ll help him out, we’ll coach him up and see where he fits in.”

In evaluating film on Manning, Moss was impressed with his pass-rush abilities both from the inside and outside, and Moss believes that will translate well to certain blitz packages the Packers run.

He also spoke highly of Manning’s “knack, temperament and mindset to chase and pursue the ball,” and Moss saw solid coverage skills against tight ends, though with the type of athletic, explosive tight ends many NFL offenses now employ, that will require an adjustment in the pro game.

“I thought he did a good job of that, covering in the man-to-man profile,” Moss said. “That’s a challenge obviously coming to the next level and he’s going to have to cover some very good football players, but those are the expectations and I think he’ll be up to the challenge.”

Manning became a starter in 2010 and he called the game that year against Cincinnati his “breakout” game, when he recorded two sacks and forced a fumble. Heading into 2011, he had to battle back from arthroscopic surgery on his left knee and ended up leading his team in sacks (5½) and tackles for loss (14½) while earning second-team all-Atlantic Coast Conference honors.

He emphasized that he wants to become a more consistent player as a pro, calling himself an “All-American” some games in college and “just decent” in others. As for jumping into the competition at inside linebacker in Green Bay, Manning dialed back the bravado a bit and spoke of learning from the veterans already here.

“I’m coming in to work,” he said. “I’m pretty sure they know something I don’t.”

That’s a healthy outlook for any rookie, but as his new position coach, Moss sounded as though he didn’t want Manning to lose too much of his edge.

“Hopefully, he’s going to have a mindset that he’s going to come in here and challenge,” Moss said. “If he’s not prepared to be a starter-type linebacker for us, then we’re getting the wrong guy.”

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