GREEN BAY – Raven Greene had a mission this offseason.
Coming off a season-ending ankle injury, the Packers’ second-year safety knew he’d have to shift his focus to his upper body during the early part of his training with running and leg work initially out of the equation.
The emphasis had multiple origins. It not only was the best way to maximize Greene’s offseason, but also was intended to position him for greater roles in Mike Pettine’s hybrid defense and Shawn Mennenga’s special-teams units.
With Greene’s jersey rolled under his shoulder pads for a little added emphasis, the results were obvious once the 5-foot-11, 197-pound safety returned to the practice field for the start of the Packers’ offseason program in April.
“Naturally, I just really like to work hard in the weight room,” Greene said. “And being that I couldn’t work legs for a really long time, it just balanced out that way.”
The Packers were on the practice field Tuesday afternoon for the offseason program.
Greene was one of four undrafted rookies to make the Packers’ 53-man roster coming out of training camp last summer. Prior to his injury, he was one of Green Bay’s most productive special-teamers, with five coverage tackles, a forced fumble and a successful 26-yard run off a fake punt against Miami Nov. 11.
Just as Greene had started to break through on defense – he played 30 snaps and registered a third-down sack off a blitz in that same game against the Dolphins – he injured his ankle the following week in Seattle.
As disappointing as it was to finish his rookie year on injured reserve, Greene put his time to good use. After beginning his rehab, Greene was a spectator at practices and an active participant in the meeting rooms.
Cleared for the start of the offseason program, Greene was all over the field this spring. He not only was he the next safety up behind presumptive starters Adrian Amos and rookie Darnell Savage, but he also lined up in the box in certain sub-packages.
“Yeah, Raven, he’s a smart football player,” Head Coach Matt LaFleur said. “Again, (he) has shown some versatility whether we line him up as a dime (DB) or at safety. So, I’m excited about him moving forward.”
The hybrid safety post has become a staple of Green Bay’s defenses, with Morgan Burnett, Josh Jones, Jermaine Whitehead, Ibraheim Campbell and Greene all taking snaps alongside inside linebacker Blake Martinez in recent years.
Greene feels natural playing near the line of scrimmage and doesn’t believe the added muscle he put on this offseason has zapped him of any speed or lateral quickness.
Getting the opportunity to take more first- and second-team reps with the defense has helped crystallize the finer details of Pettine’s scheme for Greene.
“I really want to just get out there,” Greene said. “I mean, the second year in the system is really when you take the most leaps, obviously. Just being able to get out there and get quality reps is something that I’ve really been looking forward to. I’m trying to make the most of it.”
Adversity has shaped Greene into the player he’s become. Once cut from his high school team in Virginia, Greene went on to set James Madison’s all-time marks for career interceptions (14) and interception return yards (258).
Not afraid to put in the work in the weight room, Greene hopes his efforts are rewarded once training camp begins later this month. And should he make the Packers’ 53-man roster for a second consecutive year, Greene has one small request.
“I gotta ask for an extra small jersey,” said Greene with a smile. “I’m going to try to get the smallest shoulder pads I can (and) do my thing.”