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Perry leads rookies into first practice

Posted May 11, 2012

Seven of them are already signed to contracts, and the only one that remains unsigned said there’s no reason for concern.

“It’s going to get done. My agent is working very hard on that. It’ll get done,” first-round draft pick Nick Perry said on Friday, as the Packers’ rookies met with the media.

Perry is the leader of a class that includes eight draft picks and 14 undrafted free agents. Perry, the draft’s 28th overall selection and the Packers’ primary hope for an improved pass rush in 2012, acknowledged that expectation and the opportunity that goes with it.

“I know I have to make the transition, but I have the coaching staff it takes. I’m ready to take it to the next level,” Perry said.

For Perry, the transition is about more than going from the college level to the NFL. It’s also about moving from the down-end position he played at USC to the outside linebacker position he will play for the Packers in Dom Capers’ 3-4 defensive scheme.

Perry said he weighs 270 pounds, a weight at which he ran a 4.58 40 and posted a 38½-inch vertical jump, and he expects to maintain that weight at linebacker.

“That’ll probably be where I end up. I’m comfortable. Weight isn’t a concern,” he said.

Meeting with reporters was the kickoff for an afternoon that was to send rookies onto the field at the Don Hutson Center for their first practice as Packers. The group is also to practice once each on Saturday and Sunday. All eyes will be on Perry, of course, as he begins his transition from end to linebacker, a move that could have major impact on the Packers’ attempts to fix a defense that finished last in the league in 2011.

“There are different stances, but once you get comfortable in those, it shouldn’t be an issue. I know we need help, obviously, on defense. I know the opportunity is here and I want to take advantage of it any way I can to help,” Perry added.

Second-round picks Jerel Worthy and Casey Hayward are also thought to be key figures in the Packers’ attempt to fix the defense. Worthy, was a 4-3 defensive tackle at Michigan State who is transitioning to a 3-4 end with the Packers, and Hayward is an accomplished SEC cornerback who might also help address need at safety.

“I just want to work hard. I’m in the best place to do that,” Worthy told reporters who questioned him on criticism for remarks he made in college about taking plays off. Clearly, Worthy was prepared to address that topic.

Hayward is aware of speculation that he might allow Charles Woodson to move to safety. Woodson had even commented on that possibility during a recent radio interview.

Whether or not that can happen might depend on how quickly Hayward can transition his play from college to the NFL. Coming out of the SEC, however, there would seem to be reasonable hope for that happening, as SEC cornerbacks have enjoyed a strong reputation in recent years for making an immediate impact in the NFL.

“Every week, you’re going to go against a big receiver,” Hayward said, using A.J. Green as an example of a top receiver Hayward faced in the SEC. “I think it’s the same as here; everybody is good.”

Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy’s opening remarks to his players focused on the opportunity they have with the Packers, and this is a rookie draft class heavy with defensive players, and it’s on defense where opportunity would seem to abound.

“The greatest organization in the NFL and I’m a part of it,” North Carolina State linebacker Terrell Manning said. “I’m here to play special teams, and if I can get a couple of plays in on the field, so be it.”

Even for the Packers’ last two draft picks, Florida State offensive tackle Andrew Datko and quarterback B.J. Coleman, there is opportunity. Datko is joining a team from which long-time offensive tackle Chad Clifton was released prior to the draft, and Coleman has a chance to become the Packers’ next development project at quarterback, from where Matt Flynn graduated into free agency in March.

Datko said he has overcome the shoulder injuries that caused his draft stock to plummet. “My bench press is back to normal, back to where it was. I started heavy lifting in January and just kept getting stronger,” he said.

Coleman was effervescent after having signed his contract. “It was a dream come true to be able to sign those papers,” he said.

There would even seem to be an opportunity for undrafted free agent Tommie Draheim, who played tackle at San Diego State but will be given a look at center by the Packers, who lost Scott Wells in free agency and are in the market for a developmental player at the position.

“What got me here is my work ethic. That’s what I believe got me in the door,” said Draheim, who played center in high school.

Additional coverage - May 11
 
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