GREEN BAY – Marcedes Lewis has been named a team captain six times during his NFL career, but there's no question this one hits just a little bit different.
After a 12-year career with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Lewis faced a lot of professional uncertainty when he signed with the Packers as a 34-year-old free agent in 2018.
Externally, some questioned how much Lewis had left in the tank. Internally, Lewis wondered how he'd fit into his first new locker room since the Jaguars drafted him in 2006.
In the three years that have followed, the 6-foot-6, 267-pound tight end has grown into a vocal and emotional leader in the Packers' locker room. On most gamedays, Lewis is the one breaking down the team huddle during pregame.
This week, Lewis' peers recognized his influence when they selected him as one of three permanent team captains on the offensive side of the ball, alongside MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers and All-Pro receiver Davante Adams.
"This is a definitely different because this is a different part of my life," Lewis said. "Obviously, when you're somewhere for 12 years and then leave to go somewhere else to essentially just start over, that's another culture, a different locker room, from top to bottom, organization to the players. It's definitely different but gratitude through it all."
At 37, Lewis is the oldest active tight end in the NFL after the retirement of Jason Witten. With Larry Fitzgerald not currently playing, Lewis' 217 regular-season games are the most among skill-position players and rank fourth among non-specialists, behind only Tom Brady (301), Ben Roethlisberger (233) and Andrew Whitworth (224).
It's not by accident Lewis has lasted this long. He's made a series of changes to his diet and training regimen throughout the years, missing just 23 regular-season games over 15 seasons.
One major part of Lewis' formula of longevity is hydration, which ties in with Sunday's opener against the Saints, a game relocated to TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville due to the aftereffects of Hurricane Ida hitting New Orleans last month.
So, instead of playing inside the noisy Superdome, the Packers will have to contest with the Florida heat. It's a reality the native Californian Lewis learned the hard way after the Jaguars drafted him in the first round out of UCLA back in 2006.
When asked to compare summers in Green Bay to Jacksonville, Lewis just smiles.
"This is not heat. What heat?" Lewis said. "The heat here is just 'cause the sun is up. It's totally different from Jacksonville. I remember when I first got there it was a shower every two hours.
"Every year, I was back and forth from California, where I'm from, to Jacksonville, it was like, you never got used to it. You just learned to tolerate it."
Playing in Jacksonville taught Lewis the importance of staying properly hydrated – and not just on gameday. It's a seven-day-a-week commitment or a "lifestyle," as Lewis puts it.
Even now in Green Bay, Lewis aims to drink at least a gallon of water a day. It's not as easy as it sounds, either. Lewis had to teach his body how to take in that much fluid. At first, he would drink water from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. Now, he gets that task done by 5:30, at the latest.
It's one of the many lessons he's passed on to his Packers teammates and one small example of Lewis' consummate and unwavering professionalism.
"They don't make too many like Marcedes, and I mean that in the highest regard," Head Coach Matt LaFleur said. "Just as a person, as a player, as a leader, he excels at everything we ask him to do. I think he's a pro's pro, and I can't even articulate what he means to this football team, and just our success here as an organization."
Fittingly, the kickoff to Lewis' 16th NFL season takes him back to where it all began. While Lewis isn't making the return to Jacksonville out to be anything more than it is, Sunday's opener is another big milestone in a career that's spanned three different decades.
And Lewis can't wait to get it going.
"I've been ready to play for like two weeks. I'm biting at the bit," Lewis said. "All of this (media) right here is necessary, but I'm just ready to get on a plane and kick the season off. Not a lot of people get to say they play through 16 seasons and do it the way I've been doing it. … So I'm just excited to get it going."
Cornerback Jaire Alexander, defensive lineman Kenny Clark and safety Adrian Amos were all elected defensive captains for the first time in their NFL careers, while kicker Mason Crosby was tabbed to represent special teams for the eighth time.
Amos, a free-agent signee in 2019, not only led the defense with 83 tackles last year but also has served as the unit's weekly spokesperson with the media since the start of the pandemic.
"It means a lot," said Amos of the honor. "Just hearing my name called, it shows what my teammates think about me and puts responsibility on me. Just to be a leader, just to represent my team, my defense, keep doing what I've been doing as far as, I'm the same person all the time."
Packers players found out the identities of the team's 2021 season captains after practice on Sept. 9, 2021. QB Aaron Rodgers, WR Davante Adams and TE Marcedes Lewis captain the offense, while S Adrian Amos, DL Kenny Clark and CB Jaire Alexander will represent the defense.