Packers feeling good about healthy Klemm

Adrian Klemm left his parking spot in New England behind. With some luck, it will be a good trade-off for the Green Bay Packers' new starting left guard.

Klemm, who has seen three of his five professional seasons end while being stationed on injured reserve, officially signed a two-year contract with the Packers on Thursday.

The Patriots liked Klemm and Klemm liked the Patriots, but he's hoping the grass is greener — and his health is better — in Green Bay.

"One of the reasons I didn't go back to New England was that I felt I needed a fresh start," Klemm said during a conference call with reporters Thursday. "Every year I was there, I came back a little stronger, though. Over there, they give out parking spots for whoever gets the highest numbers (during off-season workouts). I got my parking space. It doesn't sound important, but it symbolizes hard work."

There's plenty of hard work ahead for Klemm in regard to rehab. Klemm broke his foot during the second game of last season and missed the final 14 contests. He says he'll be ready for training camp, though he likely will be limited during the off-season minicamps.

"He's had some injury mishaps, but nothing of a serious nature," new Packers general manager Ted Thompson said of his first major signing. "Sometimes, guys run into a streak of bad luck. We're hoping a change of scenery changes that."

The Packers had better hope so. A great deal of pressure will be placed on Klemm, whose contract is worth $2.6 million, including an $800,000 signing bonus. He will be thrown into Mike Wahle's former spot at left guard. In the Packers' offense, the left guard must be equally adept at leading the way on sweeps as he is winning one-on-one battles at the line of scrimmage.

Those responsibilities are what lured Klemm to Green Bay.

"What intrigues me about that left guard position is that it's very unique, with a lot of pulling and a lot of open-field blocking," Klemm said. "You're not just hitting the guy in front of you. I feel if I can concentrate on one position, I can be a pretty good player for them."

Klemm's athleticism — he was moved to tight end for a portion of his senior season at Hawaii — is what attracted Thompson.

"We watched a lot of tape on him," said Thompson. "He can run and block in space, and we ask our left guard to do a lot of things in space. He played in a wide-open offense at Hawaii, and he can really bend, flex and pass protect."

Offensive line coach Larry Beightol has no doubts Klemm, who has played more tackle than guard during his injury-interrupted career, will do a fine job.

"We're going to put him at that one spot and I think he'll get it down with no major problems," said Beightol. "He's very athletic, very smart and an excellent pass protector."

That's if he can stay healthy.

Klemm has missed 54 of his 80 career games at New England. The former second-round pick saw his season end on injured reserve three of the past four years. Along with the foot injury last season, his 2003 season ended with an ankle injury and his 2001 season ended with a torn calf. He missed eight games during his rookie season of 2000 with elbow and knee injuries.

"I just wanted to go someplace else and get a fresh start," said Klemm. "You get tired of people handling you with kid gloves. I never feel sorry for myself."

Three championships in four years notwithstanding, the history of Green Bay was a major lure for Klemm.

"Seeing the Packer Hall of Fame and walking around seeing pictures of Packer greats on the wall, I had goosebumps," said Klemm. "You see everyone wearing Packer jackets and come off the plane and see a sign saying the Green Bay Packers welcome you. It's nothing like that in Boston.

"I just found this to be a unique experience. It's all about Packer football. And the facilities are top notch, first class. The Patriots have one of the nicest facilities in the game, and they're a whole step above that here."

Klemm fills one of the holes on the Packers' offensive line. The other could be filled by Grey Ruegamer, who was re-signed this week after being cut for salary-cap purposes earlier this month. Ruegamer did a fine job at center last season replacing the injured Mike Flanagan, and Beightol and Thompson are hopeful Ruegamer can replace three-time Pro Bowler Marco Rivera.

"What we like about Grey is he's competitive and he's tough. Lots of grit and determination. He could step up and play there," Thompson said.

Another option could be Matt O'Dwyer. The 32-year-old former Tampa Bay Buccaneer was in town Thursday. The 10-year veteran has made 105 starts in his career. Moving backup tackle Kevin Barry inside is another possibility.

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