Colledge, Spitz Venture To China

Since the two offensive linemen became close friends as rookies with the Packers in 2006, Daryn Colledge has been trying to get buddy Jason Spitz to take an offseason trip somewhere out of the country. "He never wants to leave Florida or Louisville or Green Bay, those are his comfort zones," Colledge said. "Then this year when he got injured and I said ’Let’s go on a trip,’ he decided to pick the farthest place away he could find." - More | Photo Gallery

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Daryn Colledge and Jason Spitz visit the Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses outside of Xi'an, China.

Since the two offensive linemen became close friends as rookies with the Packers in 2006, Daryn Colledge has been trying to get buddy Jason Spitz to take an offseason trip somewhere out of the country.

"He never wants to leave Florida or Louisville or Green Bay, those are his comfort zones," Colledge said of Spitz, a Jacksonville, Fla., native who played his college football at Louisville. "Then this year when he got injured and I said 'Let's go on a trip,' he decided to pick the farthest place away he could find."

Indeed, having injured his back and sitting out nearly three-fourths of this past season (for an update, see below), Spitz had plenty of time to think about a destination. So he organized a 10-day, four-city trip through China and Thailand at season's end from which the two returned earlier this month.

With stops in Beijing, Xi'an, Shanghai and Bangkok, the trip was eye-opening as well as exhausting, with everything they tried to pack into their itinerary. At their first stop, Beijing, they saw Tian'anmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Great Wall. Outside of Xi'an, they visited the Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses, while they took in an acrobat show in Shanghai and checked out the Floating Market and Buddhist temples in Bangkok, among other highlights.

"Seeing the Great Wall was the most awe-inspiring thing we did the whole trip," Colledge said. "Just to see the size of it and the magnitude of the building process and what it took to get something done like that. It's an amazing feat of architecture."

The trip had its share of unusual moments, too. Both significantly over 6 feet tall and 300 pounds, the two linemen felt they stood out even moreso than average tourists over there. And Colledge's heavily tattooed arm was pinched repeatedly by the locals trying to see if his tattoos were real.

Various shops in Shanghai were filled with knock-offs of designer clothes and other items, but even beyond that there was reason to questions how "real" some things were.

"The most shocking thing was as we were leaving the Terra Cotta Warriors, there was this guy selling animal pelts, and he said they were wolves and little foxes," Spitz said. "But I'm 99 percent sure the wolf was a German shepherd and the foxes were house cats. It was a little creepy."

So was the night market in Beijing, which featured "delicacies" not seen in America, everything from exotic fruits to beetles to starfish to sheep genitalia, with any selection cooked for consumption right on the spot.

Spitz was determined to try scorpions, which he did, but he didn't push the envelope any further than that.

"If it walks, swims, flies or crawls, they've got it," Spitz said. "Anything you can think of."

The two didn't bring - or maintain - large appetites there, but they got as much entertainment from observing what others ordered and ate.

"It was like watching an episode of 'Fear Factor,'" Colledge said. "Scorpion was Spitz's big thing. He said, 'I came this far, I'm going to eat a scorpion.'"

They didn't come home without plenty of souvenirs, either, though a lot of them were for family and friends after taking this long excursion on their own.

Colledge said the most notable souvenir he brought back was a painting for his wife. It was painted by a little girl using her hand instead of a brush.

"I guess she couldn't afford brushes, so she was painting with her thumb and her pinky and her palm," Colledge said. "She made these beautiful waterfall sceneries with guys in little boats down below. You wouldn't think it was real, and you'd think these have to be prints. But then she would paint one right in front of you. It was crazy to watch her work."

Crazy was a word the friends used to sum up their trip in general, considering it was their first foray together out of the country, after repeated encouragement from Colledge, who said he even planned some trips in the past that were never taken.

But upon returning, they both agreed there's still plenty more to see and do if they want to venture that far away again.

"It's kind of too short of a trip," Spitz said. "I was glad to get home, but it was kind of like trying to see the U.S. and Mexico in 10 days. You can't do it."

*INJURY UPDATE*

Spitz said his recovery from back surgery is progressing as planned and he expects to be 100 percent by the start of training camp, if not before.

"Everything is going the way it should," Spitz said. "They told me I'd be fine by next season, and I will be.

{sportsad300}"I feel real good, actually. I never wished an offseason to go by as fast as this one so I can start playing again."

Spitz, who has played both center and guard in his four seasons with the Packers, originally injured his back in mid-October, experiencing some nerve problems. Normal treatments didn't resolve the issue and he was eventually diagnosed with a herniated disc, requiring surgery. He was officially placed on injured reserve on Nov. 7, one day before the Week 9 game at Tampa Bay, and underwent surgery the following week.

Assuming no new collective bargaining agreement is struck before the March 5 deadline, Spitz will be a restricted free agent with four years of service. He said everything is a bit uncertain at the moment, but with the deadline for tendering free agents fast approaching, he expects the contract situation to begin sorting itself out soon.

"Being in the situation I was in, at the end of my contract, it's not the ideal time to get hurt," he said. "Not that any time is ideal to get hurt, but it's an unfortunate and inevitable part of the business. It was tough to go through, watching the team play when you're sitting on the sideline and there's nothing you can do about it. But it's part of the job, and you have to deal with it and move on."

Since the surgery, his rehab has focused on a lot of core work, stretching and cardio exercises. He expects to feel good enough to participate in various parts of the offseason program, which begins March 15 and continues through OTAs in late June, assuming he's under contract. But the team traditionally has been cautious in the offseason with players coming back from season-ending surgeries, so he wasn't going to predict a level of participation at this point.

"The workouts I'm doing now are as hard or harder than anything we're going to do during the offseason program," Spitz said. "It's just a matter of getting back out and doing football stuff, running. I do cardio daily. I just haven't put it to the full test yet. But we have time. There's no sense in rushing it."

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