With a wide smile and hearty laugh, Nick Perry said he’s “loving” the Green Bay Packers’ organized team activities.
A cynic might point to the $200,000 workout bonus Perry was due to collect for taking part in these voluntary practices. However, considering Perry’s history, there’s likely more than money behind Perry’s jovial mood.
“Most of the offseasons that I’ve had, I was in rehab (for an injury),” Perry said following Monday’s practice. “This year was a little different because I didn’t have to get any surgeries or go to rehab, so this was pretty much a new chapter for me to be able to work out in the offseason and improve and get better off of what I did last year.”
Injuries have dogged Perry throughout his career. The Packers’ first-round pick in 2012, Perry played in only six games as a rookie due to an early-season wrist injury that eventually required surgery. In 2013, he played in only 11 games, missing five midseason games due to an injured foot. In 2014, Perry played in a career-high 15 games despite being hindered by a shoulder injury that required offseason surgery. Last season, Perry played in 14 games despite an injured shoulder and broken finger.
The litany of injuries have limited Perry to 46 of a possible 64 regular-season games. As a byproduct, Perry has registered only 12.5 sacks — for comparison, he had 9.5 during his final season at USC. For those reasons, the Packers elected not to pick up Perry’s fifth-year option last spring and brought him back on a one-year deal in free agency this spring.
“I can’t really ponder about the past,” Perry said. “I’ve always felt like my injuries have limited me in some regard. I’ve always known my capabilities when I’m healthy and I think I’m in a good place to remain that way and take off to where I really need to be and where I’m really trying to go.”
Perry showed those capabilities at the end of last season. He trounced Pro Bowl Redskins left tackle Trent Williams for 2.5 sacks in the fourth quarter alone of the wild-card game, then collected a sack/strip at Arizona.
“It was another game — a big game — that someone has to show up,” Perry said of the Washington game. “I was just getting healthier and being able to showcase what I can do when I am healthy. It’s the past now. We’ve got a lot more of that to come.”
The playoff binge upped Perry’s count to six sacks in five career playoff games. Perry, however, is more than a pass rusher, which is why the team kept him rather than Mike Neal in free agency. According to league data, the Packers allowed 0.96 fewer yards per rushing play with Perry on the field than when on the sideline. That number was no fluke. In 2014, Perry was a 1.29-yard difference on running plays.
“Nick has proven that when he’s healthy and he’s on the field, he’s a true threat to offense,” Pro Bowl linebacker Clay Matthews said last week. “Especially in the pass rush, but not only in the pass rush but in the run game, as well, he’s a huge factor. I think he’d be the first to admit that injuries have limited his ability. He’s got a one-year deal, kind of a prove-it deal, and we’d like to think if he can stay healthy, he has a legitimate shot to be well taken care of.”
“If” being the operative word. Can Perry stay healthy and finally capitalize on the potential that he’s shown in flashes throughout his career? Perry is optimistic. But after battling injuries for his first four seasons, why should Year 5 be any different?
“When you get hit multiple times, hopefully things just go smoothly at some point,” Perry said. “There’s a time when that has to happen. Just being confident and just taking the high road. Right now, being in practice and doing things around the team, it’s really building things up from here.”
Bill Huber is publisher of 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 www.twitter.com/PackerReport.