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Packers' new scheme 'no problem' for Kentrell Brice

Third-year safety put together strong offseason in quest to bounce back from injury-shortened 2017


GREEN BAY - At first glance, it's difficult to tell just where safety Kentrell Brice best fits in the Packers' new defense.

Maybe it's deep safety. Or in the box. Or as the dime DB.

But the specifics of his potential role are the least of Brice's concerns. After his second NFL season in 2017 was cut short by ankle surgery, Brice has kept himself on a path to good health physically and to comprehensive knowledge of Mike Pettine's scheme mentally.

Those are his priorities, and in his mind, the rest will take care of itself.

"I consider myself an all-around player, so I really don't get into many situations to where I can't play whatever's asked of me," Brice said as the Packers wrapped up their offseason program last week. "I love the system. Whatever they ask of me, I'm going to try to get that done. It's no problem."

The ankle last year was a problem, bigger than expected after Brice tried to play through the injury for a few weeks. Eventually, at the midseason bye, he was placed on injured reserve.

He never really got a chance to build on a promising rookie season that showcased the 5-foot-11, 200-pound undrafted prospect's speed and tackling ability. Every time the Louisiana Tech product had greater duty thrust upon him, he delivered, including in the postseason, when he had four tackles and two pass break-ups at Dallas after Morgan Burnett went down.

The ankle injury, and subsequent surgery and recovery, changed his career trajectory, if only temporarily. While sitting out was admittedly frustrating, Brice did his best to make the most of the off-field time in the film room.

"I was able to study a lot of players and study a lot of tendencies from quarterbacks and route recognition and things like that," he said. "I tried to improve my game from a mental area.

"Instead of me just sitting around and sulking about it, I actually soaked up knowledge."

That has carried over to learning Pettine's scheme, which is nothing new to Brice, having gone through four different defensive coordinators in his college career.

"He's eager to learn. 'KB' is a sponge more than anything," secondary coach Jason Simmons said. "You love guys that love the game and have great football character."

That character is evident in his approach and outlook. He diligently went about every step of the rehab process with his ankle, eventually getting cleared for 11-on-11 work partway through OTAs.

Check out photos of the Packers at Ray Nitschke Field during their last day of minicamp.

Now he's as close to full health as he's been since last October. Brice will head into training camp in what, on paper at least, appears a full-fledged competition with second-year pro Josh Jones, among others, for a starting job at safety opposite Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.

Only Brice doesn't worry about the competition, just as he doesn't worry about his potential role. He talks only of focusing on himself and challenging himself.

"The sky's the limit, honestly," he said. "I don't put limitations on myself. I don't really try to set something that I say I want to get. I really want to take everything possible.

"I just want to be the best all-around safety that I can possibly be from a coverage standpoint to reading keys, filling in the box, playing deep, playing man."

The unnoticed part of his game, according to Head Coach Mike McCarthy, is his communication skills. Not loud by nature, Brice is nonetheless an effective communicator on the back end, and that likely will factor into him getting playing time, whether as a starter or in any number of Pettine's sub-packages.

As mentioned, he'll let that take care of itself.

"I love the way he plays," McCarthy said. "You can see he's really comfortable out there with the adjustments and the communication.

"I would be shocked if we're not sitting here after the season thinking that he's definitely taken a big jump, because I've seen it throughout the offseason."

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