That game, however, ruined Perry’s second season in the league. A broken foot sidelined him for five of the next six games and ruined any momentum built from his impact performances.
While Perry returned for the stretch run at far less than full strength, he was held out of all of the offseason practices to let the injury heal. At one point during the offseason, linebackers coach Winston Moss said, “Nick Perry, in my book, has done absolutely zero.”
It was a scathing criticism that left Perry speechless for a moment when relayed Moss’ words on Thursday following his first practice of training camp.
“Um, well, I haven’t been consistent and I think that’s the niche right now I’m dealing with,” Perry said. “Consistency right now is the biggest challenge for me, physical things that prohibit me from playing. So, I’m always keeping my head up and I can’t focus on everything else. I have to do my job and make sure that every year I continue to grow and get better as a player.”
Since being selected in the first round of the 2012 draft, with the hope that he would be the badly needed counterpuncher to Clay Matthews, Perry has played in only 17 of a possible 32 regular-season games. With Perry having fallen short of expectations, the Packers re-signed Mike Neal in free agency, signed Julius Peppers after he was released by Chicago and drafted Carl Bradford in the fourth round.
Suddenly, Perry looks like nothing more than a role player, having to battle Neal to be the No. 3 at the position with Matthews and Peppers slated to start.
“Being competitors in this game, there’s never a time when you want to be in a back seat,” Perry said. “We’re always looking ahead, we’re always looking forward to competing and doing the best we can do and getting the numbers we wanted and just being a pro out here. Competition is always good for us. It’s molding our team to get where we need to get to.”
“Availability” is the key for Perry, coach Mike McCarthy said on Thursday. McCarthy said the goal was to “stay in front” of the injury problems that have derailed Perry’s career in hopes of getting him healthy and keeping him healthy.
“It’s always about gaining that momentum,” Perry said. “When you play games, you get that experience and you go into that next game more experienced -- knowing your opponents, all of those things that play a part of your success. I think at those points in time (when he sustained injuries), things were looking good and I was getting in the flow but setbacks happened and I wasn’t able to finish due to things. I’m trying to flip the page now and move ahead.”
Perhaps Moss was trying to send a message to Perry during the offseason because, the facts are, Perry has made an impact when healthy. Of his four regular-season sacks last season, three resulted in fumbles. He added another sack in the playoff game. Among the team’s outside linebackers, he led the unit in snaps per tackle and pressures per pass-rushing snap.
The flashes have shown Perry that he can be an impact performer.
“There’s always that notion that goes back that I think if I could have been healthy, things would have been better for me,” Perry said. “I haven’t had the seasons that I’ve wanted due to that, but the main goal for me every year is staying healthy and playing to the best of my ability and helping my teammates any way I can. I’m glad to be here and it’s an honor to be here and I’m just ready to roll this year.”
Agree or disagree?: Discuss hot Packers topics in our, free forums. Leave Bill a question in the subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum.
Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com, and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.