Jenkins Properly Pacing His Rehab


Like many players coming back from injuries, Cullen Jenkins is balancing short-term desires with a long-term focus.

Part of him wants to rehab like a madman to get his torn pectoral muscle back into playing shape as soon as possible, so he'll miss as little of the upcoming offseason workouts as necessary.

But another part of him knows there's no point in haste making waste, because the ultimate objective isn't to have 100 percent attendance from March through June, as valuable as that might be. It's more important to be at 100 percent for the start of training camp in late July and through the ensuing 16-game regular season.

"You want to do more, you feel like you can do more, but obviously you don't want to mess it up," said Jenkins, who has been rehabbing his torn pectoral since having surgery in early October. "There's a lot of times I wanted to progress faster, but I have to listen to the doctors and be smart and not try to do too much.

"It's tough. It's been such a long time since I've played. Now I'm ready for the season to get back going, because to me it feels like I've been through an offseason already. It's one of those things. But I just have to use the time to be smart and prepare my body to try to make it through the season healthy this year."

That's something Jenkins unfortunately hasn't been able to do since 2006, when he took over as a starting defensive end late in the season and earned his first multi-year contract. In 2007, he played in every game but was battling nagging injuries to his knee and ankle and wasn't really full strength until the playoffs.

Then last year, off to the best start of his career with 18 tackles and 21/2 sacks in the first four games, Jenkins saw his season end abruptly when he tore a pectoral muscle trying to sack Tampa Bay's Brian Griese in Week 4 at Raymond James Stadium.

The Oct. 2 surgery was the start of the long road back, and nearly five months later, Jenkins' progress has been steady. In part due to recovery from a minor arthroscopic procedure on his troublesome ankle, Jenkins says he's still about a month away from putting the pectoral muscle through some more intense workouts and, if it responds well, proceeding to a full, pre-injury workout regimen.

"It's tough to tell because it feels good but you have to get that confidence back in it," said Jenkins, who works out daily at the Packers' facilities. "I would say maybe a month (until heavy lifting). If you ask the doctor, he may say a little different. But I would say once I start getting back into the routine and start doing it little by little, I'll get more confident in it, knowing it's going to be all right."

At this point, Jenkins sees no reason he won't be in full pads and ready to go for the first day of training camp. There's no set schedule as to what he will participate in between now and then, but he hopes to get on the field for at least some of the OTAs and mini-camp practices to begin learning the new 3-4 defensive scheme with his teammates, and to test the pectoral muscle before late July rolls around.

"If I can go out and run around and just do a little bit of punching with it, feel it out, I think that will do a lot for me going into training camp," he said.

Jenkins is slated to start at defensive end in the 3-4, for which his 6-foot-2, 300-pound frame seems well-suited.

Back in 2006, he earned the starting end job in the 4-3 for his ability to be stout against the run yet agile enough to move back inside to his old tackle position on passing downs and provide an inside rush. His 3-4 responsibilities will be similar in that he'll need to anchor against the run, but with the outside linebackers providing the pass rush from the edge, he'll be asked to get after the quarterback on the interior.

{sportsad300}Jenkins has spoken with both new defensive coordinator Dom Capers and defensive line coach Mike Trgovac (who was the defensive coordinator for Jenkins' brother Kris for a handful of seasons in Carolina). While they haven't gotten into too much detail about his responsibilities in the new scheme, Jenkins' experience at both tackle and end in his five-year career should help smooth his transition.

"In a 4-3, being outside all the way out on the edge, you have a little more freedom," Jenkins said. "But if you tighten a person down inside, it's more head-up, more like a D-tackle than a D-end, where things will come fast. I'll have to get back to that mentality and be expecting double teams, things like that."

But for now the mentality is to get healthy and back to full strength, no matter how patient he has to be in the process.

It was clear the Packers sorely missed his pass-rush ability after he went down last season, as his 21/2 sacks tied him for fourth on the team despite missing 12 games. Jenkins feels in the first month of 2008 he showed how disruptive a defensive presence he can be when healthy, and that's how he plans to play for a full season, given the chance.

"I just have to try to build off of that going into this year," Jenkins said. "I can get out there and create matchup problems anywhere across the line, and I just feel like when I'm playing at the top of my game, I can't be blocked. It's just a matter of staying healthy so I can stay on the field and help the team."

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