Green Bay Packers defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins is learning that sometimes things are better the second time around.
Jenkins, a first-year player out of the University of Central Michigan, is experiencing his second training camp with the Packers after first signing with the team as an undrafted free agent in 2003. He made seven tackles in four preseason games last year, but Cullen and his coaches are expecting much bigger things this season.
Jenkins apparently has really turned some heads through the early days of camp, jumping up to the second-string on the defensive depth chart behind Cletidus Hunt at the "three-technique" defensive tackle position.
"You can see the growth from when we had him last year to what he is now," Packers defensive line coach Jethro Franklin said. "The experience that he gained by going over to Europe and getting some playing time helped, and he's putting that together with what we're doing here and he's doing a good job."
After being released at the end of the 2003 training camp, Jenkins re-signed with the Packers in January and was allocated to the NFL Europe League.
Jenkins made the most of his spring in Germany, excelling with the Cologne Centurions. He started all 10 games in the developmental league, and used the playing time to put to use what he was taught in Green Bay last summer.
"It kept me playing and let me use the techniques that I learned in camp here last year," Jenkins said. "I was familiar with and knew what the coaches here were looking for from me."
Jenkins believes he has made big strides since his first summer with the Packers and is looking forward to showing everyone his improvements.
"I think I've improved on my run defense a lot and I have more experience than last year," Jenkins said. "I'm using a lot better technique and I'm playing a lot better."
If he continues the impressive performance he's shown through the early days of training camp, look for the white jersey of No. 77 to be on the field under the bright lights of Monday Night Football in the season opener at Carolina.
But Cullen wouldn't be the only Jenkins wearing No. 77 in that game. Cullen's older brother, Kris, is a two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle for the Carolina Panthers.
Jenkins says that their family might be torn as to which team to cheer for come September 13.
"I think they'll be rooting for whichever one of us is on the field at the time. They'll be cheering for the defenses," Jenkins said.
The brothers played together for one season at Belleville High School near their hometown of Ypsilanti, Michigan. Cullen says he has learned a few things from Kris, who is two years older than him.
Sibling rivalry apparently doesn't end when you reach the NFL, though.
"I take a bit of experience from watching him," Jenkins said. "It's a big competitive thing, too. We always go back and forth and try to outdo each other."
Outdoing his brother would be a huge accomplishment, one that Packer fans would love to see happen over the next few years. Jenkins has another way that he would like to outdo big brother, one that would please Packer fans to no end.
"The fact that he got to the Super Bowl, just getting there is a big accomplishment," he said. "They came up a little bit short, though. I want to outdo him and get there and win it."