Instead, he stuck around all season to lend his voice to a defensive line group in transition.
It looks like he’s going to stick around for at least next season, as well.
According to a league source, the Packers are expected to re-sign the free-agent nose tackle.
“I’m glad he stayed here,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said at the Scouting Combine. “I’m glad he stayed with us and was part of the family. I thought it was good having him around, it was good for the young guys. So, hope to get him back, too. Would be great to have him back.”
Raji, a first-round pick in 2009, was one of the league’s bright young stars in 2010 (6.5 sacks, 12 quarterback hits) and 2011 (three sacks, 10 quarterback hits). However, his production drastically tapered off in 2012 (no sacks, seven quarterback hits) and 2013 (no sacks, three quarterback hits). Receiving only tepid interest in free agency last offseason, Raji agreed to a one-year deal worth $4 million in hopes of parlaying a big bounce-back season into a big payday and long-term job security.
Back at nose tackle after moving out to end for a couple of seasons, Raji got off to an excellent start and was one of the five or 10 best players in training camp. However, Raji was injured during the Aug. 22 preseason game against Oakland and had surgery in early September to reattach the tendon.
“That night was a tough night for me,” Raji said in mid-September. “Then after that it was just like, listen, football has been great to me. I’m playing football for 14 years straight. This is part of the game. I feel fortunate to have lasted that long without some serious injury. Just moving forward, it’s a part of the game, so really nothing you can do.”
Raji’s return to the Packers seemed likely all along. That Raji decided to stay with the team showed he wanted to be in Green Bay. That the Packers didn’t suggest he do his rehab elsewhere suggested the team wanted him in Green Bay.
“First of all, from a team perspective, I still feel like I’m part of the team,” Raji said. “I just want to travel with the team, do everything I can to help the young guys out. But, ultimately, it’s like, as a football player, what am I going to do? Go away for like four (or) five months and just hang out knowing that my team is out here battling? I’d rather be around the team.”
With a six- or nine-month rehab, Raji should be ready to roll for training camp — if not sooner. Wherever he plays, chances are he’ll likely be playing on another one-year deal.
And that’s fine for Raji, who will turn 29 on July 11 and had started all but two games over the previous four seasons.
“I’m not really worried about bouncing back from this injury,” Raji said. “I’m more focused on my rehab, staying in shape, not getting completely out of shape. I think — knock on wood — the way my career has been going up to this point, this injury being an anomaly. I’ve done pretty well from an injury standpoint, so I believe the way that I’m built, No. 1, and just the way my body holds up physically, the type of work I do in the offseason I can play a number of more years.”
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