GREEN BAY – Marcedes Lewis did a lot of soul-searching over the past two years.
It started last offseason when the former Pro Bowl tight end had to decide whether he still wanted to play football after the only team he'd ever played for, the Jacksonville Jaguars, released Lewis after 170 games over 12 NFL seasons.
The phone rang almost immediately and the Packers were by far the most persistent suitor. Lewis did his research. He liked how Jimmy Graham was in Green Bay and was left with a positive impression after speaking with quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Lauded for his blocking, Lewis' role didn't veer much beyond that for the Packers in 2018. The 6-foot-6, 267-pound tight end added only three catches for 39 yards to his career totals and played only 191 offensive snaps.
Again, with his career at a crossroads, the 35-year-old tight end spoke with General Manager Brian Gutekunst once Green Bay's 6-9-1 season was over. Should Lewis return, Gutekunst assured him things would be different under Head Coach Matt LaFleur.
"Getting here and not having a plan last year for me, it was different," Lewis said. "My mind was in a different place. I met with Gutey at the end of last year and Gutey was saying, 'Hey, it's going to be totally different. We need you as one of the leaders and your role is going to be different.'"
Lewis re-signed in March, confident in the direction the Packers' offense was headed after former Jacksonville offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett was hired by LaFleur in the same position.
Meanwhile, the 14th-year veteran took a long look in the mirror, as well. Lewis wanted to make changes after finishing last season around 275 pounds, near his heaviest playing weight in 2008 and approximately 20 pounds heavier than during his Pro Bowl season in 2010.
In LaFleur's offense, there wasn't a reason for Lewis to play that heavy. "Automatically," Lewis knew he "had to do things totally different." His goal was to not worry so much about his game-day weight but focus more on what he was walking around at.
The Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears kicked off the NFL's 100th season at Soldier Field.