GREEN BAY – After the heartbreaking loss in last January's NFC title game, much of the Packers' fan base assumed Kevin King would not be back in Green Bay.
But the Packers didn't share those sentiments. Neither did King.
Head Coach Matt LaFleur made two things clear Tuesday regarding the fifth-year cornerback, who is back after briefly testing free agency but not finding any long-term offers to his liking with the salary cap reduced.
First, the long touchdown pass over his head at the end of the first half against Tampa Bay seven months ago was not all on King, as LaFleur reiterated a communication mix-up amongst the coaching staff led to the snafu.
Second, the value King brings to the Packers' defense is perceived much differently within the building compared to outside it.
"He's a guy I was super-excited to get back," LaFleur said. "He's a resilient guy. He's a smart guy.
"He's a guy I have a lot of faith, a lot of confidence in."
King also has faith he's in the right place, even if in Green Bay there's no escaping the aforementioned Scotty Miller touchdown, nor the late-game, jersey-grabbing pass interference that gave the Buccaneers the first down they needed to run out the clock.
It was a play King acknowledged was a penalty – "I might've gotten a little bit of his shirt," he said – but anyone who watched the game knows that type of contact hadn't been flagged all day.
Be that as it may, King could've put the whole Packers chapter to his career behind him, packed up the January baggage, and moved on. He admitted it was the kind of game he won't necessarily get over.
Yet he chose to return and do his best to exorcise any demons in the same place they materialized.
"I'm not the type of guy that just tries to sweep (stuff) under the rug, you know? 'All right, let me get a fresh start somewhere.' No. No," King said in his first visit with the media since last season. "I want to finish this with my guys, you know what I'm saying? The guys who've believed in me and the guys who continue to believe in me.
"I'm going to do my part to uphold my side of the bargain, but … we're here to win a Super Bowl."
The Packers feel they have the secondary in new coordinator Joe Barry's defense to make that run. The unit's top five veteran defensive backs – corners King, Jaire Alexander and Chandon Sullivan, plus safeties Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage – are entering their third season together.
They feel their chemistry and continuity outweigh any adjustments to be made in the new scheme. King said if he learned anything from the Tampa Bay loss, it was basically to trust his instincts more anyway.
The addition of first-round draft pick Eric Stokes only deepens the front-line group, and even though Stokes is competing with King for the No. 2 corner spot behind Alexander, there's no animosity and the veteran has vowed to remain a good teammate.
"He's a great guy who loves listening, has great ability, great talents and he'll have a long, prosperous career in this league, no doubt about it," King said. "And I want to help with that. But I know what type of player I am. I know what type of player I can be.
"If he can beat me out on that field, then they drafted the right guy."
The other focus for King is on his health, which has betrayed his wiry 6-3, 200-pound frame to some extent in all but one season of his career thus far. King missed only one game in 2019, his best when he led the team with five interceptions, but he was sidelined for a five-game midseason stretch last year and wasn't fully healthy in the playoffs, dealing with a back issue.
He came into training camp nursing a hamstring injury and only recently returned to 11-on-11 work in practice, with limited reps. On one of those snaps Tuesday, he made a diving break-up of an Aaron Rodgers pass on a deep out to Marquez Valdes-Scantling.
"I think when he's healthy he's really tough to deal with," LaFleur said. "His length, when he challenges guys at the line of scrimmage and gets his hands on them, that's a tough matchup for most wide receivers."
King must find a way to stay available, and despite the time he's missed this summer, LaFleur is counting on him "to make sure he's sharp come Week 1."
That's when the page officially gets turned for King, who could've done so long ago by simply leaving town. But that was never his mindset, not with this team and the guys who, as he said, believe in him.
"I really didn't want to be nowhere else, to be honest," King said. "I feel like we have the pieces to get over that hump.
"For a lot of teams, that hump is becoming .500 or becoming a playoff team. But our hump, we've been to the NFC Championship the last two years in a row, so our hump is the dance. I just want to do my part in that, so I'm excited and I'm ready to go."