GREEN BAY - Kevin King didn’t get everything out of his rookie season he wanted.
A shoulder injury was the culprit. It forced the young cornerback to play at less than full strength for a number of games, and it landed the second-round pick on injured reserve when it was determined surgery was needed.
But King still acquired something very valuable in 2017. Lined up at different times across from Atlanta’s Julio Jones, Cincinnati’s A.J. Green and Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown, King confirmed he can hold his own against the game’s top receivers.
“Yeah, that’s what I’m here to do, and I hope that’s what everybody’s here to do,” King said during the final week of the Packers’ offseason program. “When you’re out there on that island, and you’ve got the best guy in the world potentially coming up, you’re going to see what you’re made of for sure, mentally and physically.
“But it starts mentally. If you go up and you’re defeated at the jump, then he’s already got you. It was definitely great for me to judge the best in the world versus myself. It was definitely a confidence boost.”
Make no mistake, King didn’t shut down the aforementioned stars. Nor did he take them on, one-on-one, for an entire game.
But he wasn’t dominated by any stretch, and he made his share of plays. He wasn’t out of his element as a rookie going up against All-Pros, and the experience has the second-year corner eager to take on those No. 1 responsibilities again, if not more often, for new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine.
“One thing about me, I’m never going to surprise myself in things I do or how I react to things,” he said. “I’m my biggest critic, but at the same time I’m my biggest supporter and I know what I’m capable of as well. In that aspect, I will never surprise myself.
“I really just learned more about this league, learned more about the talent of the top guys and that gap, and if it feels bigger or smaller than I thought it was.”
So which was it, bigger or smaller?
“I’m never going to surprise myself,” he said. “That’ll tell you right there.”
King has been forced to remain patient in 2018, though. While allowed to do individual drills during OTAs and minicamp, he was held out of all 11-on-11 work as a precaution due to the shoulder surgery.
To keep himself occupied between plays or during breaks in practice, he was often seen dropping to the ground to do a couple dozen push-ups, just another way he’s trying to fortify the shoulder and build up his 6-foot-3, 200-pound frame.
“My dad has been telling me to do push-ups since I was 5 years old,” he said. “You read about guys like Herschel Walker who did 5,000 push-ups a day. God was with those guys in terms of their body, but it works. You don’t really need too much weight and stuff. If you’re watching TV, see a commercial, hit out 20 and by the end of the day you’ve got a few hundred in.”
King has no doubts his body is good to go. “Oh, I’m back,” he said. “Yeah, I’m good.” But he’ll be entering his second training camp with a different mindset.
He’s no longer the top rookie in the spotlight. That falls on first- and second-round picks Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson now. Veteran Tramon Williams, whom King calls “a cool cat,” is back in Green Bay following a three-year absence with gobs of knowledge to share, and eighth-year veteran Davon House also has returned.
King has every intention of being Pettine’s No. 1 guy, but he knows nobody is going to hand him the job. The fight for roster spots behind the top group will be fierce as well, with five of the other six cornerbacks on the team possessing NFL game experience.
“It’s going to be extremely competitive,” King said. “Competition, it brings out the best of everyone, or it should. It’s either going to bring the dog out of you or the little poodle out of you, the little puppy, you know what I’m saying? You either rise to the challenge or you’re going to get left behind.
“Being around these guys, they’re not left-behind type guys. That’s the type of room we have and the type of example that Tramon and House and Ha Ha (Clinton-Dix) and those guys set.”
Don’t be surprised if King is one of those guys setting an example in 2018. He certainly won’t be.
“We all came here for a reason,” King said. “Of course the Packers, that’s what’s on our logo, but we came here to play, we came here to produce, we came here to be great, collectively, and everybody wants to be a piece of that.”