Lee digs in along line

A new and improved James Lee is excited about a new season and new position along the defensive line. The defensive tackle, who has been slowed by season-ending injuries in each of his first two seasons in the league, is optimistic about Jim Bates and the new defensive scheme, especially along the line.

In Bates' system, the defensive tackles will be categorized as left (two-technique tackle) and right (three-technique tackle) rather than nose tackle and three-technique tackle. The Packers used the latter scheme for their defensive linemen under former coordinators Bob Slowik and Ed Donatell over the last five years.

In the post-draft minicamp, Donnell Washington and Corey Williams, spent most of the time with the No. 1 defense at tackle. Lee and Colin Cole played with the No. 2 unit while starters Grady Jackson (off-season knee surgery) and Cletidus Hunt (hamstring pull) sat out.

So far, so good for Lee, who reported to minicamp at 320 pounds, about five less than he weighed last year. Lee has been practicing at both tackle positions as are the other tackles.

"It's fun. It's different from what I've been playing since I first got here," Lee said.

In the new defensive line scheme, players are asked to control their gap vs. holding the point over the center. The defensive ends are also split out wider on each side. "I think it will work," Lee said.

Lee could prosper in the system if he can stay healthy, but that has been a problem for the third-year pro.

Lee missed the 2003 season with back and leg injuries. He returned last season as a backup to Jackson at nose tackle. When Jackson went down with a knee injury in the first game of the season, Lee stepped in and played well enough to earn a start in Week 2. But he tore cartilage in his left knee during the game against the Chicago Bears and was forced to undergo arthroscopic surgery. Lee missed the next four games before returning, but his knee weakened down the stretch run of the season and he was placed on injured reserve on Dec. 23.

Lee, like many of the defensive linemen except for Hunt, have stuck around Green Bay this off-season to get themselves in optimum shape.

"All of us are getting into better shape," Lee said. "we came in weighing under our weigh-in weight. I came in at 325, which I was supposed to weigh. I'm down to like 320 now and hopefully when we come into the June minicamp I'll be down to 315 or between 315 and 320 and then just work on all the fundamentals with the coaches and get myself ready for training camp.

"I want to go out in camp and bust out."

Lee finished with 10 tackles and one sack in nine games last year.

"Coming into training camp I'll be ready to roll and put those pads on," said Lee. "It's different now. New defense and new coaches. It's going well."


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