Packers Ink Pair Of Defenders To Long-Term Contracts

The Packers’ sixth annual Fan Fest brought news of two contract extensions, as two key cogs in Green Bay’s defense, free safety Nick Collins and nose tackle Ryan Pickett, agreed to deals with the team on Friday night that will run through 2013. - More | Official Press Releases

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The Packers' sixth annual Fan Fest brought news of two contract extensions, as two key cogs in Green Bay's defense, free safety Nick Collins and nose tackle Ryan Pickett, agreed to deals with the team on Friday night that will run through 2013.

For Collins, it means staying with the only NFL franchise he has ever known since being selected in the second round of the 2005 draft by the Packers.

"It means a lot," Collins said. "I'm able to stay where I started at. A lot of guys like to make different moves, but I'm glad and fortunate that I am able to be a Packer and keep it going.

"I'm fortunate to be in this position, and I'm just thankful."

Collins earned Pro Bowl honors for the second straight season in '09, becoming the first Green Bay safety since LeRoy Butler (1996-98) to earn the recognition in consecutive years. He has become one of the top playmaking safeties in the league over the past two seasons, evidenced by his 13 interceptions in 2008-09, most among NFL players at his position. His 405 interception yards over that span lead the league as well.

The 26-year-old Collins took on increased responsibilities as a signal-caller in new defensive coordinator Dom Capers' 3-4 scheme last season, and was part of a unit that made a jump from No. 20 to No. 2 in the overall league defensive rankings.

"We have a year under our belt now," Collins said. "Hopefully we can add something to our repertoire and just go out there and be dominant like we were this year. But everyone can improve at their position, and that's what we're focused on."

Since the NFL and players association did not agree on a new collective bargaining agreement this winter, Collins was a restricted free agent and received the highest tender available from the Packers. The team would have had the right to match any contract offer for him, and if they chose not to, would have received first- and third-round draft picks as compensation.

"I knew that they put the highest tender on me, and I really didn't have a lot of leverage on making any type of move," Collins said. "I just know that I wanted to be a Packer. My heart is here, has always been here, and I just wanted to stay here even if it was for a year, two years, it didn't matter."

Pickett had been designated as the team's franchise player on Feb. 24, which almost assured him of being with the Packers in 2010 since other teams would have had to give up two first-round picks to acquire him, and he said it was a relief to reach a long-term agreement with the team.

"It means a lot," Pickett said. "I love playing here. I love being a part of the Packers team and an organization that is first class. My family is here, my kids are in school, so it meant the world to us that we got something done and that we're going to be here longer than a year.

"I didn't know they were going to do it (place the franchise tag on him) until I talked to (GM) Ted (Thompson) like a day before or so, and then he told me. But then he told me also they were only doing it to get a deal done with me, and then I was like, 'All right, great, cool. So let's do it.' I was excited."

Pickett said he had been in contract talks with the team for about a year, and got a "surprise" call from his agent late Friday morning that an agreement was approaching.

Pickett, who came to Green Bay as an unrestricted free agent in 2006 after playing his first five seasons in the league with St. Louis, made the transition to nose tackle in the 3-4 after playing defensive tackle in the 4-3 defense the previous three seasons. He was part of a defense that ranked No. 1 in the league against the run for the first time in franchise history, and the average of 83.3 yards allowed per game on the ground set a team mark for any season.

{sportsad300}"I absolutely love this place," Pickett said. "I love the 3-4. I love playing the nose in this defense. I think I was built for it. I always wanted to do it and I got my opportunity to do it. It's just a blessing that I've been able to get the chance to do it.

"I think the defense is going to grow leaps and bounds from last year. We've got so much room to improve and get better, and I'm just excited about that."

The 30-year-old Pickett, who grew up in Zephyrhills, Fla., spoke of the excitement that comes with staying in a community both he and his family have become comfortable in.

"I like small-town living," Pickett said. "I'm not a big-city guy. I like to fish and stay outside and play with my kids and stuff like that, so this town just suits me. It kind of fits my personality.

"It's great. I feel at home. The people are welcoming around here. My wife loves it. She loves going to the stores and stuff around here, so it's just a great place for my family."

Pickett spoke briefly to his fellow contract signee on Friday, and said both players are excited about what 2010 and beyond could bring for them and the rest of the team.

"We're excited about our future," Pickett said. "We're excited that we get just another shot of being together as a unit and going out to win the Super Bowl. That's our ultimate goal. All of this stuff is behind us and now the No. 1 goal is to hold the trophy."

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