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Pettway Prepared For Expanded Role


In his five games with Green Bay this season, defensive end Kenny Pettway has become one of the team's core players on special teams, but now he is looking to make more of an impact in a pass-rushing role.

Last week at Minnesota, Pettway got five snaps at right defensive end in third-down situations, his most action there outside of the Oct. 19 game vs. Indianapolis. Rookie defensive end Jeremy Thompson, who got the starting nod the last three games on the right side, is listed as doubtful for Sunday's game vs. Chicago, which would likely move Michael Montgomery into a starting spot with Pettway potentially getting more time on third downs.

"Pettway has definitely been getting a lot more work there, and I know the coaches are getting a lot more comfortable with him and his ability to attack the edge and so forth and just understanding our scheme," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. "He's improved each week. He's done a very nice job of jumping in on special teams, and I see him doing the same thing as far as the work on the defensive line."

Pettway, who stands 6-foot-4 but is a bit undersized at 248 pounds, posted three sacks in 17 games over the last two seasons with Jacksonville, including two in just seven games as a first-year player in 2006.

"He's got long arms," defensive ends coach Carl Hairston said. "As a good pass rusher, that's what you need. He's got good pass-rush leverage and those are the two main things I look for. I can get the rest of it out of him. If he continues to do that with his speed, I think he'll be a good pass rusher.

"It probably will be in situations. It will be interesting to see how he handles it. I think he'll do a good job. He's a very competitive guy and I like what I see."

Pettway signed with the Packers on Oct. 1 when fellow defensive end Cullen Jenkins was placed on season-ending injured reserve. He was pressed into action immediately on special teams against Atlanta that Sunday with defensive end Jason Hunter sidelined with a hamstring injury. He posted a stop on special teams in his debut, and has played in every game since, contributing on all four special teams units.

"Special teams players right now in this league are few and far between," special teams coordinator Mike Stock said. "You've got to really be a pretty good position player as well as a special teams player to make a roster anymore.

"People are very, very strong about having everybody be a top-notch position player, and then learn how to play special teams. He's more of a special teams player and then a role player as far as defense is concerned."

Stock said Pettway has gained the respect of his teammates because of his work ethic in practice and experience in the league.

"It's not new to him, so I just hope he continues to climb to help our team get better because I think people look to him to be a leader for this team because of the way he handles himself," Stock said. "He's gotten into the mix very quickly. People have accepted him because of his value."

The special teams units have been an area of strength this season for the Packers as the team ranks among the league leaders in several statistical categories.

Green Bay ranks third in the league with a 13.4-yard punt return average, fifth in the NFL in opponents' average starting field position after kickoffs at 24.4 and fifth in the league by allowing just a 6.9-yard punt return average from opponents.

The team's play on special teams has been made more impressive by the fact that many of last season's contributors are no longer on the roster or have been sidelined at some point this season. Hunter and fullback Korey Hall both missed time with injuries and linebacker Tracy White and cornerback Frank Walker, two of the team's top five tacklers in '07, are not with the team.

"My goal on kickoffs is to make a tackle inside the 20," Pettway said. "If I can't do that, then I try to take out two people so I can free up one of the other guys. Punt team, we've got an outstanding return guy in Will Blackmon that gives us a chance to score every time."

{sportsad300}Pettway, who was released by Jacksonville in the final roster cutdown in training camp this summer, joined the Packers just a month after witnessing a friend and former teammate sustain serious injuries from a shooting.

On Sept. 2, Pettway was behind the wheel of parked vehicle with Jaguars offensive lineman Richard Collier as a passenger as they waited for two women outside an apartment complex when a gunman fired into the car. Pettway was uninjured but Collier was shot 14 times, which resulted in him being paralyzed below the waist and having his left leg amputated.

"He's getting stronger and he has started back working out because he's ready to get out of there (hospital) and go home and start his new life," Pettway said. "I talk to him as much as I can, probably every two or three days."

Since Pettway had been released by the Jaguars in late August, he spent the next few weeks after the shooting in Houston working out on his own before the call came from the Packers.

"Just to get back around another team and get my mind off of that situation really helped me as a person to move on with my life," Pettway said. "Everybody on the defensive line is great. When I first got here they took me in immediately. I was already friends with (practice squad DT) Alfred Malone because we played together in Houston in 2005, and then (Johnny) Jolly and I are from the same city so I knew him. It's really a great group of guys."

After getting a taste of action last week in Minnesota, Pettway said he hopes to make his presence felt if more playing time comes his way against another division rival this Sunday.

"I felt like I played pretty well last week with the few plays I got, but I still wanted to get a sack," Pettway said. "Hopefully I can get some more reps this week. If they stick me in there, I'll be ready."

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