It's Do-or-Die For Safety Levine

At a green-as-grass position, 25-year-old Anthony Levine is the Packers' oldest full-time safety. In his third training camp with the team, here is the stark reality: With a strong performance on Thursday, he could be the starter. With a poor performance, he could be out of work.

Anthony Levine has one foot out the door but another foot on a banana peel.

Levine is spending his third training camp in the Green Bay Packers' auxiliary locker room. After laboring on the practice squad for the past two seasons, Levine has positioned himself to not only make the 53-man roster and walk through the doorway separating the auxiliary locker room from the main locker room, but he's got a chance to join Morgan Burnett as the safeties in the nickel and dime packages.

"Man, I come here every day and just work hard," Levine said. "I really want to be out there and I really want that starting nickel job. I just work hard every day and trust my training and go out and do what I'm coached to do."

Levine was with the starting unit on Monday and Tuesday, working ahead of M.D. Jennings, who was a starter throughout the offseason and the first three weeks of training camp, and rookie Jerron McMillian, who had a productive performance against Cleveland and ran with the starters on Sunday.

"He knows our system and he's got a good feel for things back there," safeties coach Darren Perry said of Levine, who at 25 is the oldest of the Packers' safeties not named Charles Woodson. "He'll have an opportunity to prove that he can be the guy."

It's been a long road to have a chance of being "the guy." Levine started 24 games at Tennessee State, a Football Championship Subdivision school. He intercepted five passes over his final two seasons, but went undrafted in 2010 and earned a contract after participating in the Packers' rookie camp on a tryout basis. Levine failed to make the club in 2010 and spent the full season on the practice squad, and failed again in 2011 and wasn't signed to the practice squad until midseason.

"Being on the practice squad, I knew that they saw something in me," he said. "Being here, just talking with the older guys like Charles Woodson and Nick Collins and Charlie Peprah and asking them, ‘What am I doing? What do I need to work on?' They told me — even my coach, Darren Perry, told me that I can play in this league. I know I can play in this league. Being on the practice squad, just go out and work on everything. Going against Aaron Rodgers and Greg Jennings and Jordy (Nelson), I feel like I got better. I was going against the No. 1 offense every day in practice anyway, so I felt like my time would come, and when it came, I'd be ready."

Whether Levine can put a stranglehold on the starting position will be determined during the next week. Perry, coach Mike McCarthy and defensive coordinator all say the safety competition is too close to call. A final decision might not be made until after next week's preseason finale against Kansas City. That means Levine, Jennings and McMillian could be a starter one day and asked to turn in his iPad the next.

That makes Thursday's game at Cincinnati perhaps the biggest game of Levine's life.

"I feel like every game is a big game," Levine said. "The next game is a big game. I'm going to go out, I'm going to showcase my talent in this game, I'm going to showcase my talent the next game and I'm going to showcase my talent when we play the 49ers at home, so I'll be ready."


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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.


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