'Big Grease': Pickett Tackles Quarterbacks, Double-Teams And Fatherhood

Ryan Pickett’s job is to consume two offensive linemen, leaving his teammates in a more winnable one-on-one situation. But Pickett’s strength isn’t just handling two blockers, but also being able to make a play himself.


The Green Bay Packers traveled to Denver for a showdown with the Broncos on a clear Monday evening. After 60 minutes the game went into overtime tied at 13-13.

On the first play from scrimmage, Brett Favre hit Greg Jennings for a game-winning 82-yard touchdown. But Favre almost never had an opportunity to make that play.

Green Bay, clinging to a 13-10 lead late in the fourth quarter, watched the Denver offense march down the field. The Broncos traveled 89 yards to the Packers 4-yard line in 2 minutes, 8 seconds. Denver faced third-and-1 with no timeouts and 22 seconds left in the game. The Packers defense was visibly exhausted. A first down would allow the Broncos to spike the ball and take two shots at winning the game, leaving Green Bay with virtually no time left to counter.

Denver quarterback Jay Cutler took the snap from shotgun and ran a quarterback draw to the right side. However, defensive tackle Ryan Pickett fought off a block and managed to bring Cutler down for no gain.

"We had a stunt call," Pickett said. "I beat my man and made the play. That's all that happened. It was a good call and I just executed. I did what I was supposed to do."

"It had a big impact on the game," defensive tackles coach Robert Nunn said. "They didn't get any movement off the line of scrimmage on him and he, in fact, penetrated and knocked him back."

With no timeouts the Broncos had to hurry on the field goal kicking unit. The considerably gassed Pickett had to hustle to the sideline so the Packers wouldn't be called for having too many men on the field. The 6-foot-2, 322-pound Pickett labored to the white paint and dove just before the ball was snapped.

"That was the fastest I've had to run in a while," Pickett said. "They still tease me about that. I almost pulled a muscle running off the field."

The tackle set the stage for Favre's dramatic overtime touchdown and while that dominated the headlines, Pickett, as usual, was the unsung hero of the day.

"He makes some great plays and sometimes they go unnoticed," said defensive end Aaron Kampman, who lines up next to Pickett. "He brings a lot of energy to the defensive line. He's going to give you everything he's got on every snap. He's a guy that should get a lot of credit for what he's doing."

"He's a little on the underrated side," Nunn said. "He's a guy that does a lot of hidden things for our defense. As far as I'm concerned, from what I've seen of him, he's off to the best start of his career."

Pickett, who is entering his seventh NFL season, signed with Green Bay as a free agent in 2006 after spending five years in St. Louis. The former first-round pick out of Ohio State is a key cog in the Green Bay defense. The entire scheme starts up front with the four down linemen. The Packers prefer using their front four to create most of the pressure on the quarterback rather than blitzing.

Pickett's job is to consume two offensive linemen, leaving his teammates in a more winnable one-on-one situation.

"Even if he doesn't make a tackle, his push, fundamentally staying square, not allowing others to cut back, he's an integral part of what we do," Kampman said.

But, as Nunn pointed out, Pickett's strength isn't just handling two blockers, but also being able to make a play himself.

"One thing Ryan does have is the ability to come off (of blocks) and make plays and finish plays," Nunn said. "Some run-stoppers don't have that ability. Guys can't stay on double teams very long so if they don't get that initial movement, he anchors and he can come off and make a play."

{sportsad300}Such was the case against Denver.

The veteran, who goes by the nickname 'Big Grease', has also been tutoring some of the Packers younger players on the defensive line, such as Justin Harrell, Daniel Muir and Johnny Jolly.

"'Grease' helped me adapt to the pro game, how to fight off blocks, when they're scooping," said Jolly, who progressed to a starter in his second year before suffering a shoulder injury. "He's taught me a lot. He's been there for me."

Pickett claims that his nickname came from his father.

"Everyone called my father 'Grease' and I look just like him so they started calling me 'Big Grease'," he said. According to Pickett, his father claims people called him 'Grease' because "he was smooth and slick."

So does that mean Ryan is also smooth and slick?

"I'd say a little of my father rubbed off on me," he joked.

The question now is if 'Big Grease' will rub off on his own son. On Aug. 10 his wife, Jennifer, gave birth to Ryan Lamonte Pickett Jr. Little Ryan is the third installment to the Pickett family, joining his two sisters, Jill and Abigail.

"It's different," said the proud father. "I had two girls and now I got a little boy named Junior who looks just like me. My daddy is 'Grease'. I'm 'Big Grease'. He's got to be 'Little Grease'."

With two older sisters in the house, 'Little Grease' has the right teacher to learn how to handle being double-teamed.

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