That decision will have a dramatic effect on the Green Bay Packers and their offseason personnel plans. Collins said he wanted to give the Packers plenty of time to chart a new course, if necessary, and the Packers have done their homework at the Scouting Combine.
The Packers talked to several safeties here, and one of those was the consensus best safety in this draft, All-American Mark Barron.
Barron, who did not work out at the Combine after going double hernia surgery, started 38 of a possible 40 games during his final three seasons at Alabama. He finished with 12 interceptions and 22 passes defensed, his interception total being the highest among the safeties in this draft class. In 2011, he had two interceptions and 68 tackles as the senior leader of the national champions' juggernaut defense.
"We played in a very difficult defense, first of all," Barron said. "We did a lot of different schemes. As far as communicating, I had a lot to do with that on the back end. I feel like sometimes I brought some energy with the hits that I made and things of that nature. So, I did a lot of different things."
After Collins' sustained a career-threatening neck injury in Week 2 at Carolina, the Packers' defense crumbled. To be sure, all of the fault shouldn't be dumped on his replacement, Charlie Peprah, but Collins provided an almost unrivaled combination of athleticism and intelligence after starting 95 of a possible 98 games in his first six-plus seasons in Green Bay.
Barron doesn't have Collins' wheels — there aren't many safeties who do — but he's got plenty of athletic ability.
That all-around athleticism was clear as a senior at St. Paul Episcopal in Mobile, Ala. For instance, Barron was recruited by Alabama's arch-nemesis, Auburn, to play running back. Incredibly, Barron won state track and field titles in the long jump, triple jump, shot put and discus.
"I've always been able to do a lot of different things," Barron said, flashing a smile for the first time during his eight-plus minutes at the podium on Sunday. "I'm usually good with whatever I put my mind to. Yeah, that's something I take pride in. In the shot put, there's a lot of big guys and I was always the smallest one and I used to go out there and beat all of them. That was kind of funny."
Moreover, Barron spent four years flourishing in coach Nick Saban's complex, NFL-style defense. That experience would help him adapt immediately to Dom Capers' defense in Green Bay.
"That's something I knew when I first went to Bama is we had a complex defense and an NFL-type scheme," Barron said. "Going into it, I knew it was going to prepare me for the next level. Actually, that was one of the reasons why I wanted to go to Alabama. I feel like that has prepared me for the next level."
Barron (6-1, 213) is more than just an athlete, a ballhawk and a leader of the secondary. He's a big hitter — starting from his days playing tackle football on the streets. There's little doubt Barron's game will translate nicely to the NFL. Barron, however, admitted having one worry.
"Honestly, I don't like (the player-safety rules directed at tacklers) because that's the way I've been taught to play the game," Barron said. "I hit hard. I guess I'll have to make some adjustments. Hopefully, I'll be able to make them. I'm not sure if I will because that's the way I was taught to play the game. I guess we'll see what happens."
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.