GREEN BAY – As Nick Perry returned to practice on Sunday for the first time this year, the most important question for him is an obvious one.
Can he be ready for Week 1?
“Oh, yeah,” Perry said after a closed practice that Head Coach Mike McCarthy indicated would be focused on preparing for the regular-season opener against the Bears. “That’s something I’ve been chopping at. The opportunity will come.”
Perry officially was activated off the physically unable to perform list on Sunday in what has been a long road back from offseason ankle surgery. The veteran outside linebacker sat out all of OTAs in the spring and was hoping to be cleared sooner in training camp, but he finally got the green light.
How he’ll progress from here as far as 11-on-11 work and possibly some preseason action over the next couple of weeks, Perry couldn’t say. With only a limited number of practices remaining in camp, Perry doesn’t have a ton of time to get ready for Chicago, but he’s not dwelling on it.
“We’re at a point where I don’t have a choice,” he said. “I think I’ll be fine ultimately. My body is in good shape to handle a load like that.”
The Packers are counting on Perry to be a key piece of Mike Pettine’s new defense. For all the progress Reggie Gilbert has made this summer at outside linebacker, Green Bay is going to want Clay Matthews and Perry to be the stalwarts on the edge.
Injuries have always held Perry back, but when he’s been healthy he’s produced, especially the last two years. He had 11 sacks in 14 games in 2016 and then seven more through his first eight games last season before his health betrayed him again.
Perry’s injuries haven’t been the pulled and tweaked muscles, but the more significant bone- and joint-related types that he attributes to his violent, attacking style of play.
As much as the Packers need him available, he’s not going to change the way he plays, because his strength and power at outside linebacker are what make him successful. Right now, he just wants to get ready for the season, and he feels mentally he’s in a good place as far as understanding Pettine’s defense and what will be asked of him.
“The main thing for me is just the visualization part of it, visualizing being in those calls and being serious about understanding the whole concept and not just my position,” he said. “That goes a long way. I think I’ve got a good grasp of it now. It’s just getting it ingrained in my head to play fast.”
Perry called it “a beautiful day,” and then, quoting his dad, called it “an exquisite day” to finally get back on the practice field. His smile and his eyes revealed his enthusiasm, and he’s fired up about what could be in store for him in Pettine’s defense.
“I love it,” he said of the new scheme. “I’m excited.”
So are his teammates, who are looking to clean up a number of things from their most recent defensive performance Thursday against Pittsburgh.
Veteran cornerback Davon House pointed out the two pick-sixes were great and all, but there was a lot to correct on the film, from assignments to tackling.
Perry isn’t the cure-all, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t glad to have him back.
“I think everyone’s happy,” House said. “We expect big things out of Nick this year. We want 15-plus sacks if he can get them. It’s good to finally see what we’ll look like when everyone’s healthy on the defensive side of the ball.”