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Five years in, Yosh Nijman still focused on growing his game

Packers tackle has been working swing shift this summer

T Yosh Nijman
T Yosh Nijman

GREEN BAY – Yosh Nijman has been at this thing for a while now.

In fact, just two members of the Packers' offense have been in Green Bay longer than the 27-year-old tackle: All-Pro tackle David Bakhtiari and Pro Bowl running back Aaron Jones.

After spending his rookie season in 2019 on Green Bay's practice squad, Nijman has since made 50 consecutive regular-season appearances for the Packers. That's tied for the longest active streak on Green Bay's roster. Starting right guard Jon Runyan also hasn't missed a game during that stretch.

This summer, Nijman has been pulling double duty on the offensive line. He's filled in at left tackle during Bakhtiari's scheduled off days while also competing with Zach Tom for the starting right tackle job.

While he may be five years into a pro career, Nijman hasn't altered his approach to making continuous improvement.

"Every day finding a way to get better at something still," Nijman said. "Football is a game of imperfections, but we try to critique ourselves very day. It being Year 5, for me, it's learning how to play both tackles really, really well. That's where I'm at."

Nijman, who returned to the Packers this spring on a tender offer as a restricted free agent, is coming off his best season to date after starting 13 of his 17 appearances in 2022.

Last season began with Nijman platooning at left tackle with the returning Bakhtiari early on before flipping with Runyan to the right side of the offensive line midway through the season.

Head Coach Matt LaFleur has kept an open mind with the offensive lineman, as the Packers look to build their best starting five on a jam-packed unit that returned a whopping 13 players.

Bakhtiari, Jenkins and Runyan have been the mainstays at their respective spots, while Nijman, center Josh Myers and Tom have been moving around with the No. 1 unit during this week's padded practices.

"We need to pull out the best of everybody," said LaFleur before Thursday's practice. "When you have capable people, it naturally creates some level of competition and ultimately that makes us a better football team when we have guys pushing to compete for starting jobs."

Tom's ability to play all five positions on the offensive line has added a twist to the competition. During Tuesday's practice, he rotated with both Nijman and Myers on the first-team offense.

When Bakhtiari rested Thursday, Nijman (left tackle), Myers (center) and Tom (right tackle) all received first-team snaps during the longest, and hottest, practice of training camp so far (two hours, five minutes, 90-ish degrees).

"Me personally, I want the best five to play, whoever that may be," Jenkins said. "I love all those guys the same, but I want the best out there to help us win games. That's what we're here for. However it may play out, I'm good with, as long as they're helping us win games, as long as they're consistent doing their jobs."

Nijman doesn't mind competition. His undrafted background hasn't allowed him to get complacent, even after he became a full-fledged starter during the second half of last year.

As the past few seasons have proved, there's a good chance the Packers will be counting on Nijman, Tom and Myers to navigate the 17-game season.

"I think in the room right now, guys are learning," Nijman said. "We're all trying to play cohesively together within the mix and matching, but I think the most growth is individually and making sure the guys know what they have to do when they play their position."

Nijman had another solid showing Thursday, successfully blocking veteran Justin Hollins in the one-on-one period and also holding his edge during 11-on-11.

It all leads into Saturday's Family Night practice inside Lambeau Field. It holds a little added meaning for Nijman, whose mother will be attending the annual event for the first time.

Wherever he's lined up, Nijman just wants to keep stacking little victories in hope of a lasting breakthrough.

"Every day we're taking in a challenge. If I play left, I play left. If I play right, I play right," Nijman said. "This is what I have to do for today, but we'll see come preseason and Week 1."

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