Jimmy Graham shares Super Bowl hunger

Free-agent TE fired up about joining Packers and Aaron Rodgers in pursuit of a title

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GREEN BAY – Tight end Jimmy Graham had several suitors in free agency, but as he pondered his options amidst his desire for a Super Bowl ring, he kept coming back to one thought.

"12's hungry, and I know how he is, and I know how competitive he is," Graham said in meeting the Green Bay media for the first time Tuesday, speaking about his new quarterback, Aaron Rodgers. "I want to ride that wave and try to help him as best I can."

Rodgers will be the third Pro Bowl quarterback throwing passes to Graham, after the dynamic tight end's five seasons with the Saints' Drew Brees and three with the Seahawks' Russell Wilson.

He's no stranger to Rodgers, having known him since Graham's first Pro Bowl, following the 2011 season and Rodgers' first MVP award.

"He basically got on the bus, gave me the belt and sat down," Graham joked, making a reference to Rodgers' title-belt gesture. "That was my first interaction with him, and we've been pretty good friends ever since.

"He's got a great sense of humor, and obviously I'm excited to learn from him. I'm excited to be in the huddle with him and start this learning process."

That process started Tuesday, the Packers' first day of offseason workouts, which began Graham's ninth NFL season. He's coming off of three statistically disappointing campaigns in Seattle, though he did reach double-digit touchdowns for the fourth time in his career in 2017.

But after four seasons with Brees averaging 89 catches, 1,099 yards and 11½ touchdowns per year from 2011-14, Graham didn't approach those numbers with the Seahawks. He chalked it up to a different offensive philosophy in Seattle, and a knee injury that cost him the final five games of 2015 didn't help matters.

But he hasn't missed a game since and sounded eager to show he can return to his high-impact ways, particularly in a Mike McCarthy offense that has thrived in the past with athletic tight ends such as Jermichael Finley and Jared Cook.

"I'm still 6-7 and can still run a 4.5, so I think so," Graham said. "Hopefully I can do that here. When my number is called, I'm going to be ready, I can tell you that.

"He's a great offensive mind, and he's all about matchups," Graham continued, referring to McCarthy. "Being lethal in the red zone is super-important in this league. I know he's excited, but probably not as I excited as I am, though."

Learning McCarthy's reworked playbook and getting on the same page with Rodgers are Graham's top priorities over the next few months. He knows Rodgers looks for advantageous matchups as much as McCarthy schemes for them, and the first step is "knowing when you are that matchup" in order to capitalize with a big play.

Developing chemistry with Rodgers will be ongoing, and getting underway momentarily.

"It's all about these days right here, especially when we start catching and running routes," Graham said. "For me, mainly, it's about making sure I've got the offense down, so he's got a lot of confidence in me, he knows that I know what's going on, and we're kind of in the same steps.

"From there, you basically try not to drop anything ever, and he'll start liking you."

All kidding aside, a shot at a championship is Graham's biggest motivator, and the key reason he chose Green Bay.

He missed New Orleans' Super Bowl title by one year, joining the Saints as a third-round draft pick out of Miami in 2010. He then was traded to Seattle in 2015, after the Seahawks' back-to-back Super Bowl appearances, so the dynamic playmaker has yet to reach the pinnacle of the sport, despite playing with quarterbacks who have.

"For me, it's about winning a ring, simple as that," Graham said. "I know this team. I know Aaron's hungry, I know the coaching staff's hungry, this franchise is hungry to win one. That was the defining factor for me."

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