And he’s healthy.
Lattimore, who played well in four starts at inside linebacker last season, will get another crack at the starting lineup in place of injured Brad Jones when the Green Bay Packers host the New York Jets on Sunday.
“The simple fact was, last year, I was dealing with an illness and I had to come in and play with an illness that not a lot of people knew about,” Lattimore said on Friday. “It’s a lot to ask from your body to go out and play a whole game plus everything else plus not feeling good. It’s a lot. That stuff can bring you down a little bit but …”
Lattimore didn’t want to get into the specifics of an illness that affected him the “whole year.” He said it was “something similar” to what Terrell Manning endured in 2012. Manning, a rookie inside linebacker at the time, dealt with a nasty case of colitis that robbed him of his energy, weight and strength.
At least Manning eventually learned what was wrong.
“It was just something that was never diagnosed or anything,” Lattimore said. “They really don’t know, so I was stuck with a ‘don’t know.’”
The uncertainty was almost as bad as the malady, which was “a lot of stuff” that “compounded.”
“If a person tells you they don’t know what’s wrong with you,” Lattimore said, “how would you take it?”
Lattimore played well, nonetheless. In four starts and two other games in which he played extensively, Lattimore finished with 35 tackles, including two sacks and a forced fumble.
“I had no choice,” Lattimore said. “It’s my job, I’ve got to go and play. But I didn’t feel good. But you just have to suck it up.”
Lattimore, who was retained this offseason with a $1.431 million restricted free agent tender, had a strong training camp but never really mounted much of a challenge to Jones, who played well in the preseason. While Lattimore lacks Jones’ experience and length to affect passing lanes, he is a hard-hitting, athletic player not all that different that Desmond Bishop. It was Bishop who finally, after a couple of strong preseasons, got his chance in 2010 after Nick Barnett sustained a season-ending injury. Bishop wound up being a vital cog of a championship team.
“Jamari is a heck of a football player,” coach Mike McCarthy said on Friday. “He has great passion. I thought the practice yesterday was a lot of fun. From the energy standpoint, he’s a part of that. He brings a lot to the table. He excelled on special teams early. We had him playing outside linebacker (as an undrafted rookie in 2011 who played defensive end at Middle Tennessee State) in part of that cross-training effort to give players more opportunity, create more value for themselves. But he’s very natural inside. He’s played good football for us. So, I have a ton of confidence in Jamari.”
Now it’s Lattimore’s job to confirm McCarthy’s belief in him. After three seasons of mostly toiling on special teams, Lattimore has the opportunity of a lifetime.
He’s ready, healthy and confident.
“Hunger’s always there. It never leaves,” he said. “The three years, you gain a lot of experience. With experience, your confidence level shoots through the roof. It’s just like that. It’s that simple. Once you know what you’re doing and you have 100 percent confidence in yourself, then everything else falls into place.”
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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.