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Embracing his role, Zayne Anderson maximized his minutes this spring

Packers safety capped offseason program with a three-INT practice during minicamp

S Zayne Anderson
S Zayne Anderson

GREEN BAY – Zayne Anderson isn't one to take a victory lap, but the Packers' second-year safety understandably had difficulty concealing his smile after the first of two minicamp practices on June 11.

In a practice for the ages, Anderson caught not one, not two, but three interceptions during team 11-on-11 periods to throw his fellow defenders into a celebratory frenzy.

The 27-year-old safety – who has yet to play a defensive snap in an NFL regular-season game – said he once had two INTs in practice with the Kansas City Chiefs, but nothing like this. It couldn't have ended any more theatrically, either, as his third INT came in the end zone during the final two-minute period of practice.

Afterwards, a media horde encircled Anderson at his locker to discuss his day.

"I always tell the guys and I always tell myself, and remind myself, that if you're doing the right thing and doing the right technique, the ball will come to you when it's supposed to come to you," Anderson said. "Luckily, it was gravitating towards me. It was a good day."

While Anderson quickly cautions it's just three plays during one offseason practice, the former undrafted free agent also acknowledges big plays and memorable moments are critical to earning a place on Green Bay's 53-man roster at a crowded position.

So far, special teams have been Anderson's calling card. That phase earned Anderson his first NFL opportunity in Kansas City, where he earned a Super Bowl ring while bouncing between the Chiefs' active roster and practice squad in 2021-22.

Kansas City's 38-35 triumph over Philadelphia in Super Bowl LVII kicked off a rather wonky 2023 season for Anderson, who became a free agent after his practice-squad contract expired. Five days after the Chiefs hoisted the Lombardi Trophy, Anderson signed with Buffalo as a street free agent.

Cut by the Bills at the end of training camp, Anderson was claimed off waivers by Green Bay. He was a healthy scratch the first two weeks before tweaking his hamstring in practice and missing the next month. Anderson returned to play in the Packers' final 12 games (including playoffs), recording five coverage tackles on special teams.

A full offseason has allowed Anderson to catch his breath and learn Green Bay's schemes from the ground up. He's one of only three returning safeties for the Packers, who completely overhauled the position with the signing of Xavier McKinney and selection of rookies Javon Bullard, Evan Williams and Kitan Oladapo in the NFL Draft.

Unfazed by competition, Anderson focused on himself this offseason.

"It all starts with embracing your role," Anderson said. "Doesn't matter where that is, whether it's special teams, do that the best you possibly can. I was undrafted, so it's nothing new to me to have guys get drafted or big contracts come in. It's another challenge, and you just control what you can control. Your reps, make those the best reps possible. That's been my attitude."

For Anderson, it comes down to seizing opportunity, which he did during minicamp while McKinney was excused for good attendance during the first eight weeks of the team's offseason program. Oladapo also was unable to practice this spring after undergoing surgery to repair a broken toe he suffered at the NFL Scouting Combine in February.

Rotating in with the No. 2 defense, Anderson aimed to maximize his minutes. After having just three interceptions over six seasons at BYU, Anderson matched that total on the practice field in less than two hours.

"He had a heck of a day, huh?" said Head Coach Matt LaFleur. "Zayne, he always approaches it the right way and gives great effort. He started to gain some confidence as a player last season, especially on 'we-fense.' And then to see him get more opportunities on defense and go out there and make plays, I think that's exciting."

In Green Bay, it's not unheard of for undrafted free agents to crack the 53 at stacked positions. Just ask Bo Melton, who emerged as a top receiving target last year despite three incoming rookie draft picks.

Anderson knows one practice does not a roster make, but competition is constant, and any positive development helps his cause. Whether it's on "we-fense" or defense, Anderson is eager to state his case when the Packers reconvene later this month for training camp.

"It's a very competitive room, so you have a day like that, it's a big confidence boost," Anderson said. "But it's also, 'On to the next.' You get three big plays, then it's on to the next. That's kind of how this league goes."