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Ben Sims catching on for Packers after catching up

Rookie tight end helped Green Bay make history in win over Kansas City

TE Ben Sims
TE Ben Sims

GREEN BAY – Being an NFL rookie tight end is a tough gig.

Being an NFL rookie tight end and joining a completely new team days out from the start of the regular season? Well, that's a whole different kind of challenge.

But that has been the story of Ben Sims, a 6-foot-5, 250-pound undrafted rookie out of Baylor whom the Packers claimed off waivers from Minnesota following mandatory cuts.

Despite his late arrival, Sims has still played in all 12 games this season, simultaneously learning the NFL ropes and Green Bay's game plans. Quiet and driven, Sims has earned the respect of his coaches and peers for how he's handled his unique situation.

That's what made Sims' first career touchdown during Sunday's 27-19 win over the Kansas City Chiefs so special – not only for himself but also his teammates.

"Props to Ben. He's put in the work," rookie tight end Tucker Kraft said. "He's one of my best friends on the team. Love him. I can't say enough things about Ben. He's a dog. He's got that mentality. He showed up to work every day and he earns his keep. To see him finally get six, it made me happy."

It has been a topsy turvy season for Sims, who took a top-30 visit to Green Bay prior to the draft but signed with Minnesota as a college free agent after the Packers selected Luke Musgrave and Kraft during the second day of the NFL Draft.

A few months later, Green Bay wound up in the tight-end market again after fourth-year veteran Tyler Davis was lost for the season to a torn anterior cruciate ligament. When Sims came up short of making the Vikings' 53, the Packers placed a claim to bring the rookie to Green Bay.

Used initially on special teams, Sims has seen his offensive workload spike since Musgrave was placed on injured reserve last month with an abdominal injury. Fifty of Sims' 96 offensive snaps this season have come over the last three games.

A big-bodied tight end with some blocking chops, Sims was deployed in a goal-line personnel package on Sunday with Kraft, rookie fullback Henry Pearson and guard Royce Newman reporting eligible on second-and-goal from the Kansas City 1.

As quarterback Jordan Love faked the handoff to AJ Dillon and rolled out, both Kraft (over the top) and Sims (underneath) came free. Love lofted the pass to the nearby Sims, who pulled it down for Green Bay's first score of the game.

The 23-year-old rookie quickly made a beeline for the stands, scaling the wall with ease for his first Lambeau Leap.

"It's pretty crazy," said Sims after the game. "Growing up, you always wish to play in the NFL, and you always wish to play in the mecca of pro football and today I got to do that, and I got to score my first touchdown and got to Lambeau Leap. So, my heart is full."

Sims made Packers history with his touchdown, completing the trifecta with Musgrave and Kraft as the first rookie TE trio in team history to each register a TD reception in a season.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Packers are the first team in the Super Bowl era to have three rookie TEs catch a TD pass in a season.

While it returned fourth-year veteran Josiah Deguara and Davis, Green Bay rolled the dice this offseason when it chose to replace veterans Marcedes Lewis and Robert Tonyan with rookies.

The trio of Musgrave, Kraft and Sims have combined for 46 catches, 451 yards and three touchdowns in 12 games this season, already surpassing the production of Green Bay rookie tight ends over the past 12 seasons combined (28 catches for 311 yards and two TDs).

Early returns were somewhat expected from Musgrave and Kraft given their draft status, but Sims has been an unexpected find.

"He's approached it the right way from Day 1," Head Coach Matt LaFleur said. "He cares about what he's doing, and he comes in with a great attitude and just goes to work. (Tight ends coach) John Dunn's done a really nice job with that room. He's certainly tasked with a unique situation, I would say; just to have that much youth in that room, but it's been a lot of fun to watch the growth of all those young guys."

A lot has gone into Kraft's budding friendship with Sims, but what has impressed the rookie third-round pick the most about his new teammate was the way Sims attacked the playbook early on and took coaching in Green Bay.

That included some difficult days in which Sims would be taught a certain concept in meetings and then be expected to execute that assignment in practice a few hours later. Regardless of the circumstances, the rookie never backed down.

Depending on Musgrave's timeline – he's guaranteed to be out at least two more games on IR – Sims may have a big role to play down the stretch for Green Bay.

Securing his first NFL touchdown was a fitting reward for all the time Sims has invested while learning on the job, though. As for the ball itself, Sims already has plans for it.

"I'm probably gonna get a case for it and I'm probably going to put it up somewhere in my house," said Sims with a smile.

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