A Team Player, Gbaja-Biamila Will Focus On Specialty

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Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila is taking the true team player approach to his new role in the Green Bay Packers' defense.

A starter the past five years at defensive end, Gbaja-Biamila said earlier this week he's expected to be a pass-rush specialist in 2007, playing primarily on third downs and/or in obvious passing situations.

He began taking that role in the final month last season, when Cullen Jenkins supplanted him as the starter at end to beef up the run defense on early downs. Jenkins, at 295 pounds, outweighs 'KGB' by nearly 50 pounds, and the thinking was to save Gbaja-Biamila's high motor and pass-rush skills for when they were truly needed, rather than risk his 250-pound frame getting worn down on every single snap.

At the time, Gbaja-Biamila wasn't thrilled about the demotion, and he says he'd still prefer to be a starter and an every-down player. But he didn't grumble then, and he's not going to now, because he sees the team still counting on him to play a valuable part.

"I was disappointed, but that was the call," Gbaja-Biamila said. "However (the coaches) want to see it, I just want to be faithful in whatever I'm called to do. If this is what they want me to do, I'll give my very best. I'm not the employer, I'm the employee.

"If they want me to do less, I'll do less, but that still doesn't mean I'll say, 'Forget it, I'm not going to do it.' I'll do whatever they tell me to do to the best of my ability."

Gbaja-Biamila should still have ample opportunity to set the franchise's all-time sack record, currently held by Reggie White with 68 1/2. 'KGB' has 64, including six last year, his lowest total since his rookie season in 2000.

He's heard plenty about how his sack totals have declined in recent years, and that he's supposedly well past his prime. But while he doesn't necessarily subscribe to the theory that his effectiveness as a pass rusher has been diminished by playing every down, he's confident he'll show his days of getting to the quarterback are far from over.

He's turning back time, in a sense, returning to the specialist role that put him on the NFL map in 2001, when he wasn't a starter but rang up 13 1/2 sacks, a career high he matched in 2004.

"I feel like I'm a rookie again," he said. "They've got me in a special teams meeting, which I haven't done in a long time, and then my new role. So I'm looking forward to it. I think it's going to be a great opportunity for me to shine again and do some great things to help this team win."

Entering his eighth season, Gbaja-Biamila said he did feel fresher at the end of last season, when he didn't start the final three games and began assuming the specialty role. He did have one sack in that capacity, in the season finale at Chicago.

He doesn't feel like his body is wearing down, and he's been in prime shape through the minicamps and OTAs. While he admits the specialist job could prolong his career, he plans to take the field this year to prove he should be out there on more than just third downs.

"I still desire to be a starter, because I am a football player," he said. "I'm not just a pass-rush specialist, but I will take that role because I'm good at it, and I'm going to keep working at it and be really good at it. I'm going to be so good at it they're going to say, 'We have to keep him on the field on first, second...'"

{sportsad300}That's the very approach any player should take - being willing to accept the role he's asked to play but pushing to increase it when the opportunity arises.

Gbaja-Biamila believes the results will speak for themselves, just as they did earlier in his career, no matter how many critics are ready to write him off.

"Now I'm kind of back where I started, so no one expects anything," he said. "Everything that could be said that's negative has been said. 'Can't play the run, no longer a starter, only playing a little bit now, he's overpaid.'

"I can't think of anything worse they could say about me, so now I kind of have that same feel, but I'm an established player, I get paid well for what I do. But nothing is expected of me, so I can go out there and everything I do is going to shock everybody.

"I'm kind of looking forward to it. I think it's going to be a great year for me, and I think it's going to be a great year for this team."

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