Dream Season Takes Peprah Home

Charlie Peprah, who had one career start before this season, was nothing more than an afterthought entering training camp. Injuries, however, have thrust the Plano, Texas, native into the starting lineup, and he's responded with consistently strong play.

Where would the Green Bay Packers be without Charlie Peprah?

"Really, where would this team be?" safeties coach Darren Perry said, repeating the question.

It's a fair question.

What looked like a two-man derby to start at safety opposite Nick Collins between rookie Morgan Burnett and incumbent starter Atari Bigby never developed. Burnett, who general manager Ted Thompson acquired by moving up 15 spots in the third round, was a starter from the get-go as Bigby refused to sign his restricted free agent tender.

When Bigby aggravated an old ankle injury during his pre-training camp conditioning test, the battle for the starting job effectively was over before it started. Ankle surgery put Bigby on the shelf, so Perry poured his energy into getting the rookie ready for the season opener.

Burnett was beginning to show signs of becoming a solid starter when he tore an ACL against Detroit in Week 4. Into the lineup stepped Peprah, who had played in just two games last year with Atlanta after being waived off the Packers' injured reserve list with a knee injury sustained during a night practice in training camp.

Seldom flashy, all Peprah has done is be in the right spot at the right time on practically every snap since a rocky first start against Washington. The Packers probably would have lost a midseason game at the Jets had it not been for Peprah making two key pass breakups in the fourth quarter. His reliable play has been a stunning development from a player who had made just one start in his first four NFL seasons.

"Charlie's a guy that's been so consistent for us in terms of his play," Perry said. "In the classroom, he's a pro. On the field, he's been about as consistent as any player we've had on our defensive unit. He doesn't get some of the accolades and recognition that he (deserves) but I think Charlie's had as fine a season as really any safety in the league."

Really? As good as any safety in the league?

"Yeah, I marvel at what he's done," Perry continued. "He's not going to wow people with his athleticism but in terms of being where he's supposed to be and being productive and playing the game a certain way, to me, it's a tribute to him and what can be made of getting an opportunity. He's taken full advantage of that."

Relayed Perry's comment about having as fine a season as any safety in the league, Peprah smiled.

"Darren? Darren Perry?" Peprah asked. "I appreciate that. My mind-set was mainly to come out and be consistent. I didn't want to try to play outside of myself. I just wanted to come in, show the coaches they could rely on me, be accountable on the field, just be consistent, go in and run the defense and be productive. When you've got guys on the back end and you're playing alongside Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams and Nick Collins and Sam Shields, and then you've got Clay Matthews in front of you and Desmond Bishop and Cullen Jenkins, you can't help but raise your level of play. You don't want to be the weak link. You want to make plays, too. All of that combined has really helped me become the player I am. I just want to keep improving. I don't want to stop at where I'm at now. I don't want to sit back and be satisfied."

It's been a dream season for Peprah, who grew up in nearby Plano, Texas. He went from fourth on the depth chart behind Burnett, Bigby and Will Blackmon, to starting, to making his first two interceptions of his career to, on Sunday, starting in the Super Bowl against Pittsburgh.

"Man, it's cool, it really is," Peprah said. "It's a blessing. Words can't really describe it. It's all your cliché answers, I guess, because it's really the truth. I grew up here, and to come home, it's like everything comes full circle. This is something we talked about as kids. ‘Oh, man, we're going to play in the Super Bowl and they'll have it in Dallas and we'll hang out after the game.' It's almost here. I couldn't have written it any better. I couldn't have foreseen this. I'm going to enjoy it and take it all in."

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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