Bashaud Breeland's strange journey finally behind him

Now with Packers, fifth-year CB out to prove he’s still the player he was thought to be in free agency

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GREEN BAY – New Packers cornerback Bashaud Breeland said he "felt like a rookie all over again" on the practice field Wednesday.

Except Breeland is anything but a rookie.

The fifth-year veteran brings a strong resume to the defense as Davon House's replacement – 58 starts and eight interceptions over four years in Washington, including a career-high 19 pass deflections last year and a length-of-the-field pick-six.

He never thought it would take until Week 4 to find a new team after an injury issue derailed his free-agency plans back in March. But as Breeland begins to sink his teeth into defensive coordinator Mike Pettine's playbook and digest the game plan for Sunday vs. Buffalo, the veteran cornerback is all about the here and now.

"I just want to get back to the player that I'm meant to be, that I've always been," he said.

If he accomplishes that, the Packers will certainly take it.

"I saw him in the training room earlier and said I was glad to be playing with him instead of against him now," said quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who faced Breeland in the 2015 playoffs and 2016 regular season.

"Anytime you bring a guy off the street, there's a different type of energy with that player. There's an excitement of being back and a part of something special. He's excited to be here and we're excited to get him out on the field."

Breeland, a fourth-round draft pick out of Clemson back in 2014, had originally signed a free-agent deal with Carolina. He mentioned Green Bay was in the mix as a potential landing spot at that time, too.

But a couple of weeks before free agency began, a freak accident involving a golf cart while at a resort in the Dominican Republic re-opened and infected an old foot injury from his childhood. That led to a failed physical in Carolina, voiding his new contract.

Following surgery, he rehabbed and felt good to go about two months ago. He joked about being "on a world tour" visiting NFL teams, at least 13 by his count, but no signing materialized.

With the Packers forced to put House on injured reserve due to a shoulder injury, and with second-year corner Kevin King still dealing with a groin injury, Green Bay ended up his destination. Head Coach Mike McCarthy said the team felt "fortunate" to find a player of his caliber available at this stage when the need arose.

"He gives us experience. He's played a lot of football," McCarthy said. "I'm always interested in the ball skills of the defensive backs, and he definitely has that.

"The cornerback position has been a challenge for us from a depth standpoint the last couple of seasons. To add a veteran with his experience, that in itself is exceptional. We feel good about the addition."

Newly-signed Packers CB Bashaud Breeland donned the green & gold for the first time during Wednesday's practice at Clarke Hinkle Field

Breeland hadn't reached the point where he didn't think he'd get another shot in the NFL, but he did wonder how he went from "one of the first DBs taken off the board early in free agency to not even having a team to play for."

It was a strange and unexpected turn in his career, but Breeland is taking a no-regrets outlook at this point. Having played under three different defensive coordinators during his time in Washington, he doesn't see a steep learning curve with Pettine's system.

He feels he could help on Sunday vs. Buffalo if that's what the defensive coaches want, but he'll take whatever comes in stride. The 5-11, 195-pounder is certainly confident in what he brings to the table.

"A dominant edge. A player that's aggressive," he said. "A for-sure tackler at the cornerback position. Just a physical corner."

With Tramon Williams the veteran leader of a cornerback group that also features King and promising rookies Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson, Breeland will work on fitting in wherever he's needed. He has experience as both a boundary and slot corner.

Starting from scratch in some random spot on a depth chart coming off a career-best season at age 26 is not how this all was supposed to go, but until otherwise determined, Breeland is going to have faith he's right where he should be.

"I feel like I'm at a point to come here and prove that I'm still that player that I was last year," he said. "It's hard not being out there playing on first team or playing every down like I'm accustomed to, but at this point I have to adapt to the situation, and I'm going to grow as best I can and do everything I can to get on the field as quick as possible."

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