Jarius Wynn wasn't accustomed to rejection, so he wasn't prepared for the hurt that accompanies it.
"It was a hard, tough feeling. You learn from it," Wynn said of being cut by the Packers last summer.
The hurt with which Wynn left Green Bay was new to him. He was a four-star recruit coming out of high school. He was ranked the No. 2 player in the nation coming out of junior college. By the time Wynn reached the University of Georgia, which has produced an orchard full of NFL talent, Wynn had known nothing but stardom.
Last summer changed all of that. The week Wynn spent dealing with his release, before rejoining the Packers in Week 2, became the pivot point in his career. He returned to Green Bay with a greater resolve.
"It made me reset, come to reality. What am I going to do now? Am I going to get another chance? I never in my life want to feel like that again," he said as he cooled down from another sun-drenched training camp practice.
Wynn has fought his way into position in this training camp to win more than just a roster spot. With Mike Neal out due to a knee injury and C.J. Wilson sidelined by a concussion, Wynn has become a very important player on the Packers defense and on Friday, in Indianapolis, he'll have a chance to take steps toward significant playing time in 2011.
"With defensive linemen, a lot of times they take a leap in that third year, and I think that's what he's done," Packers Defensive Line Coach Mike Trgovac said. "He's got long arms. He presents a different body type than our other guys do. He spent the winter studying pass-rush."
Wynn and Packers nose tackle B.J. Raji grew close during the offseason, and Raji became a positive influence on a player that wanted to improve his game.
"I just encouraged him to use his assets. I encouraged him to open up his stride and use his length against opponents," Raji said.
What did the rejection of last summer do to Wynn?
"It rededicated him. I would have to assume it's humbling. He came back with a purpose," Raji said.
"I think he's taken his game to the next level," Trgovac said of Wynn. "Last year, he started training camp slow and he got released. It can be a little bit of a wakeup call.
"He was doing things in practice he wasn't carrying over to the games. He's seeing things faster and that takes repetitions. With the injuries we have, there are a lot of guys taking a lot of extra reps. B.J. and J-Dub, their rep counts are way above anybody's else's."
"I knew I could play," Wynn said. "When the opportunity comes, you have to take full advantage of it. I'm trying to put it all together."
He'll have plenty of opportunity to do that on Friday.