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Antonio Morrison excited for fresh start in Green Bay

New Packers linebacker likes what he sees in Mike Pettine’s defense


GREEN BAY – Antonio Morrison was enjoying his off-day in Indianapolis when the third-year linebacker received the call Sunday to inform him he'd been traded to the Packers.

Morrison hadn't heard any rumblings of a potential trade beforehand, but he had been hoping for a fresh start. Within hours, Morrison was on a plane to Green Bay to start the next chapter of his football career.

"It's football at the end of the day wherever you're at," Morrison said after Monday's practice, his first with the Packers. "That's how I look at it. That's how I approach it. I don't have hard feelings with Indianapolis, not anything like that. I'm just excited to be able to play football for wherever it is – Green Bay, I'm happy to be here."

The former fourth-round pick had 161 tackles in his first 31 games (19 starts) during two seasons spent with the Colts' 3-4 defense, but he'd been rotating with the reserves this summer after Indianapolis transitioned to a 4-3 front under new head coach Frank Reich and defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus.

Morrison is new to the defense Mike Pettine is installing with the Packers, but his first impression is the scheme is tailored to his strengths – downhill and aggressive, with a lot of plugging holes and hitting.

Morrison, 23, doesn't have many ties to Green Bay other than the one game he played against the Packers as a rookie in 2016. He has one former teammate at his disposal in defensive lineman Joey Mbu, and offensive coordinator Joe Philbin, pass-game coordinator Jim Hostler and assistant special-teams coach Maurice Drayton all served on the Colts' coaching staff during Morrison's time in Indianapolis.

Wearing a No. 48 jersey during Monday's closed practice, Morrison spent most of practice in arm's distance of new position coach Patrick Graham, absorbing new terminology to put himself in the best position possible.

"It was similar to some things I ran two years ago and last year as well in Indianapolis," said Morrison of Green Bay's defense. "Some of the things are similar. Just some of the terms and lingo are different. So it's going to take a little bit to pick that up but I should be ready to go."

The Packers have been in the market for help at inside linebacker after losing veteran Jake Ryan to a season-ending knee injury earlier this month.

Although rookie Oren Burks appears to have avoided a significant shoulder injury in Oakland, General Manager Brian Gutekunst took out an extra insurance policy in acquiring Morrison for second-year cornerback Lenzy Pipkins on Sunday.

Gutekunst scouted Morrison in 2016 and liked what he saw from the 6-foot-1, 244-pound linebacker coming out of the University of Florida. Morrison now joins another 2016 draft classmate, Blake Martinez, as the stewards of a young inside linebacker room in Green Bay that also includes converted safety Ahmad Thomas and undrafted rookie Greer Martini.

"Antonio's a veteran linebacker with a bit of experience," Gutekunst said. "Coming into camp, I think we were a little light in the experience department at inside linebacker. So it's something we've kind of been looking at.

"I scouted Antonio coming out. He was kind of the heartbeat of that team coming out of Florida. A lot of passion, very physical. He loves to play ball. It'll be good to get him out there and see how he fits in."

Morrison is no stranger to overcoming the odds. He suffered a significant knee injury at the end of his junior season in college, which made some doctors fearful he may not walk again.

Instead, Morrison pushed through the rehab and returned in time for his senior year at Florida. He didn't miss a start and led the Gators in tackles (103) for the second consecutive year.

"They told me there was a chance I might not play again with that surgery. I didn't look at it that way," Morrison said. "I knew what my goals were. I knew I was going to battle through whatever."

Morrison said no decision has been made whether he'll play in Thursday night's preseason finale in Kansas City, but he's doing whatever it takes to be ready even if it requires a few late nights.

Once he gets the defense down, Morrison says he's excited to see how his play-to-the-whistle approach to the game can benefit Green Bay's defense.

"I'm real aggressive when I'm playing," Morrison said. "I see that's something they want here, so I should be able to fit right in. That's what I count as one of my attributes, my aggressiveness."

The Packers held their last training-camp practice Monday inside the Don Hutson Center

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