GREEN BAY — Nick Perry always knew what he was capable of. He'd seen it. He'd felt it.
Just turn on the tape. It's there.
"There's always been flashes," said Perry. "There's always been times where I was able to do what I wanted to do."
As soon as it looked like the Packers linebacker's luck had changed, however, a setback quickly followed. For every hurdle Perry jumped over, another was immediately put in front of him.
That finally changed in 2016 when the former first-round pick enjoyed the first full offseason program of his career. Injury-free, Perry was positioned to make a lasting impact.
In turn, Perry led all Green Bay pass-rushers with 52 tackles and 11 sacks, and produced the career campaign everyone associated with the Packers believed he was destined for as a pass-rusher out of USC.
On Thursday, the Packers rewarded Perry with a contract extension on the first day of the new league year, holding onto one of their top defensive playmakers and keeping arguably the top free agent pass-rusher off the market.
"I think that just over the course of the years, we've had some tough times to get through," Perry said. "But there was never a doubt that I can be as good as what everyone says, and I think we're hitting a point where now I'm coming into my own and there's a lot of great football left. And I'm just proud and excited that I get the opportunity to do so."
Perry said he spoke with Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers and most of the Packers' other outside linebackers soon after signing the contract Thursday.
It was a gratifying moment for Perry, who overcame a litany of injuries during his first four seasons. A few sidelined him for games, while others impacted his on-field performance.
In the dark times, Perry said he never got too down on himself. His focus always has been fixed on getting healthy and staying healthy. In 2016, the stars finally aligned.
Known for his ability to defend the run, Perry put everything together with his pass-rush technique with his 11 sacks tying for eighth-most in the NFL.
Perry credited his breakthrough season to being able to fully participate in the offseason program for the first time in his career.
"It really hit home when I got to focus and prepare and build that foundation," Perry said. "I think it really took off because I didn't have many injuries and I was really focusing on football."
Perry said it was important for him to stay in Green Bay. Outside of a few trips here and there, it's where he and his family have called home for the better part of the past two years.
On the field, Perry remains grateful to the Packers for sticking with him through thick and thin. He's happy he was able to finally produce at the level the team believed he could.
"Everything is here for me. My residence is here, my family is here," Perry said. "We've had a great time here. We've communicated great throughout the years with coaches and with front office. I think we've meshed as a whole."
Perry missed two games due to a broken left hand, but returned to play the last five games (including playoffs) with a club. He still recorded five sacks regardless.
Perry said the injury has since healed and he's excited for another injury-free offseason. Overall, he believes he's put the injuries behind him.
Now, his sights are set on bringing a championship to Green Bay. After an admittedly hectic 48 hours, Perry is excited for the next chapter of his football career to begin.
He's just happy it's going to take place in Green Bay.
"I'm just really excited to be here for another five years," Perry said. "It's been a great road, long journey and there's a lot more to come."
In his breakout fifth season, LB Nick Perry led the team in sacks with 11 (tied for eighth league-wide). He added 60 tackles, four passes defensed and an interception. Photos by Evan Siegle and Matt Becker, packers.com