With the Green Bay Packers finishing the 2005 season ranked 23rd against the run, common perception was that they signed St. Louis Rams defensive tackle Ryan Pickett to engulf opposing running backs.
"I've been labeled as a run stuffer," Pickett said. "I'm going to surprise people with my ability to rush the passer."
With Pickett helping against both the run and the pass, he represents one of the Packers' most significant offseason additions. He could fortify a defensive line, which features both depth and youth. Colin Cole, Cullen Jenkins, Corey Williams, Donnell Washington and Kenny Peterson will vie for playing time, and each player is 25-years-old except for Peterson (27).
The 26-year-old, Pickett, signed on March 17, had 65 tackles and three sacks during the 2005 season. The former statistic was the second best total of his career while the latter tied for a career high. Pickett does not attribute his best season to any change in conditioning or technique. Instead the mental part of the game clicked for him in his fourth year in the NFL.
"Last year was a great achievement for me. I had a great season," he said. "I just got older, and the game was slowing down for me."
On the heels of that performance, the 6-2, 322-pounder and 2001 first-round pick said he is approaching the prime of his career. After prioritizing a team goal of winning the Super Bowl, Pickett has set a lofty personal objective for 2006.
"I want to make the Pro Bowl," he said.
Pickett chose his new Green Bay residence, which features a climate lacking a resemblance to Honolulu, for several reasons. He connected with the coaching staff and respected the franchise's tradition, but the devotion of Titletown's fans sealed his decision. With nearly every restaurant featuring Packers memorabilia and several of the city's streets named after Packers, the way Green Bay revolves around football reminds Pickett of his days playing in front of 102,339 zealous fans at Ohio State's Stadium.
"It's like a big college town," Pickett said.
With the Packers Pickett will play with and at times next to a former college teammate. Peterson, who entered the NFL in 2003, was part of the same 1998 recruiting class. Since joining the team, Pickett has queried his former teammate about his new surroundings.
"It's good coming here, knowing I already played with Kenny," Pickett said. "He was just telling me about the fan support here."
The Packers faithful demonstrated their enthusiasm when 62,492 fans attended last summer's scrimmage between the Packers and Buffalo Bills in July. And despite playing in the NFL's smallest market, Lambeau Field has been sold out to season ticket holders since 1960.
"What's big to me is fan support," he said. "Last year (the Packers) had a bad year, and the last game was sold out and packed and (felt) like the playoffs."
Another important reason led Pickett to sign with the Packers. His wife Jennifer fell in love with Green Bay during their initial visit.
"My wife really enjoyed it when she came," he said. "We've got to keep the boss happy."