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Rashan Gary ready to get back on the attack in 2024

Healthy again, Packers defensive lineman put in the work this offseason

DL Rashan Gary
DL Rashan Gary

GREEN BAY – There may not have been a Packers player, coach, or staff member happier than Rashan Gary for the start of the offseason program on April 15.

And understandably so.

Last year, the budding pass rusher spent the entire spring with Green Bay's training staff after undergoing surgery to repair the torn anterior cruciate ligament that ended his breakout 2022 season.

To Gary's credit, the 6-foot-6, 272-pound defender bounced back to play in all 19 games (including playoffs) while leading the Packers in both sacks (nine) and quarterback hits (22). That was despite being on a precautionary snap count the first month of the season.

Now, for the first time, in a very long time, the knee injury is behind Gary and it's all about football again. That, in itself, was a reason enough to celebrate.

"I remember, when I first got back here, I was talking to the training staff," Gary recalled. "I'm like, 'I miss this. I actually miss this.'"

In the span of five seasons, Gary has grown from a 21-year-old prospect to one of the most well-respected members of the Packers' locker room.

On the field, Gary is surging. Despite missing the final eight games of the 2022 season, Gary still ranked in the top 10 among NFL linebackers in fumble recoveries (five, tied for fourth), QB hits (73, No. 7), and sacks (29.5, tied for ninth) from 2020-23, according to TruMedia.

But it's also the way the 26-year-old handles himself away from the spotlight. Whether it's rehabbing or training, Gary has demonstrated a work ethic that's second to none and it rubs off on those around him.

So, when it came time to sign Gary to a long-term extension last October, the decision was a no-brainer for Green Bay's brass.

"I said it before, I'll say it again, he's the best leader on our team," defensive line coach Jason Rebrovich said. "Every day he comes to work, every day he's encouraging. … He's constantly pulling somebody aside to talk to them. He's the engine. He drives it. It's what he does."

Gary is set to tackle a new challenge this season, as he transitions from a 3-4 outside linebacker to putting his hand back in the dirt as a defensive end in new defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley's 4-3 scheme.

While Gary says the change is nominal – pass rushing is pass rushing at the end of the day – Hafley's attacking mentality has energized the already driven veteran.

And Gary's not alone. There was a different vibe in the locker room this spring, especially while practicing against an offense whose confidence has grown exponentially since last year's offseason program.

"You can tell the energy around the building from top to bottom is great, especially on defense having a whole new staff, a whole new life," Gary said.

"We're loving it on defense. With the offense, man, I love their swagger. It's not like last year at all. We come back, everybody works day in and day out."

It should come as no surprise that Gary had little interest in taking a break after the Packers wrapped up two weeks ago. Before departing, the burgeoning leader challenged his teammates to come back 1% better to aid the team's pursuit of a Super Bowl.

Gary vows to do his part. While addressing reporters after the final minicamp practice, Gary said he and fellow veterans Preston Smith and Kenny Clark plan to get Green Bay's defensive line together to train in Texas or California during the break.

Why? Because that's what leaders do.

"He's coming in with the right mindset," said Smith, who's been with Gary during his first five NFL seasons. "This year, having a chance to be healthy through a whole offseason and to get ready for the season, I think it's gonna be big for him. I'm expecting a lot of big things out of him."

For Gary, everything starts with having a full offseason to train, rather than rehab. That not only allows him to further develop his pass-rushing repertoire but also prepare his body for the rigors of a six-month season.

Grateful for his health, Gary is ready to let loose again.

"It's a blessing, just having the offseason to do what I need to do," Gary said. "I worked on parts of my game I really didn't have time to work on last year. It's very important and very crucial for me. Now, I'm just enjoying it and thankful to God."

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