Rasul Douglas has been diamond during rough injury stretch for Packers

In-season addition has galvanized Green Bay’s depleted secondary

CB Rasul Douglas

GREEN BAY – Every now and then, Joe Barry will take a late-evening break from game-planning in his Lambeau Field office to hop downstairs and quickly grab something to eat.

Before Green Bay's first-year defensive coordinator rounds the corner to the team cafeteria, Barry already knows what he's about to see: Rasul Douglas, sitting alone in the silence, watching film on his iPad of the upcoming opponent.

Each time, the same thought pops into Barry's head.

"I just can't believe that this guy hasn't landed a secure spot on a roster," said Barry on Monday. "Not only the plays that he's made for us, but … the way he approaches the game as a pro."

Signed off Arizona's practice squad after Jaire Alexander's shoulder injury, the 6-foot-2, 209-pound cornerback has been perhaps the Packers' best in-season addition in Brian Gutekunst's four years as general manager.

On Wednesday, Douglas was honored as the NFC Defensive Player of the Week after securing his first NFL pick-six during Sunday's 36-28 win over the Los Angeles Rams. It came one month to the day since Douglas picked off Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray in the end zone to seal a 24-21 win over his former team.

With Alexander, Kevin King and rookie Eric Stokes missing a combined 15 games due to injury, Douglas' emergence on defense has been a godsend and exemplified the next-man-up mentality that's aided Green Bay during its 9-3 start.

"When you're talking about Rasul, how was this guy on the practice squad?" said quarterback Aaron Rodgers after Sunday's game. "The dude has made so many plays for us. He's got great instincts, good ball skills, opportunistic plays for us."

The fifth-year veteran had a tumultuous start to 2021, as he was cut by both the Las Vegas Raiders and Houston Texans during training camp. After final cuts, Douglas exercised his final option – a practice-squad deal with Arizona.

Three years ago, such an agreement wouldn't have even been possible. The former third-round pick's 60 career games would have made him ineligible for the practice squad, throwing his football career into jeopardy.

However, the NFL and NFLPA agreed to relax the practice-squad rules amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Each club now has the option to keep up to two players with unlimited experience on its 16-man practice squad.

And that's where Douglas stayed for a month, biding his time until the Packers called. In seven games with four starts, Douglas has racked up 37 tackles with eight passes defensed, two interceptions and a forced fumble.

"Rasul has been a huge pickup for us. You've got to give credit to Gutey and his staff for finding him," Head Coach Matt LaFleur said. "I just love how he competes. You see it play in and play out. The guy is so competitive.

"I'm just really proud of his effort. I think our guys have really embraced him and took him in and we're lucky to have a guy like that. It's rare that you find a guy like that midseason."

It's not just that Douglas has played well for the Packers. It's the speed with which he's managed to pick up Barry's defense. Douglas played 52 defensive snaps in his first game for the Packers against Chicago, 11 days after signing with the team.

The following week, Douglas made his first start in the secondary against Washington. When it finally looked like the Packers had their full complement of cornerbacks available against Kansas City, Douglas was pressed into action on short notice when Stokes injured his knee in pregame warmups.

"We told him 15 minutes before the game, and he went out and played his butt off," Barry said. "He does not prepare like a backup. He prepares like a starter in waiting. And every time he's had an opportunity, he's done a great job. What an unbelievable pro he is."

Douglas credits his coaches and teammates for making his transition to Green Bay as seamless as possible and putting him in position to make plays for the defense.

The Packers hope to have King (hip/knee) back after the bye and potentially Alexander at some point down the stretch. Douglas will be ready for whatever role awaits him. Because as arduous as this journey has been, Douglas has enjoyed every bit of it.

With five games left in the regular season, Douglas is happy to have found his place on a close-knit team with lofty goals despite all the injuries it's endured.

"They've accepted me with open arms," Douglas said. "Coach had me speak a little bit (after Sunday's win). I just told them that I appreciate all you guys in here. Y'all made me feel like this was home. And that's a good feeling to have."


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