Peterson's last chance

Kenny Peterson's back is against the wall. The Packers' defensive lineman is entering his third season, but has yet to provide the team a snapshot of his potential since he was selected in the third round (79th overall) of the 2003 NFL Draft by Green Bay.

One of the stronger players on the Packers' roster, Peterson's 2004 season got off to a slow start when he sustained a right knee bone bruise and sprained ankle in the exhibition finale at Tennessee. By the time he was ready to return in Week 3, free agent Cullen Jenkins and rookie Corey Williams had passed him up on the depth chart. Peterson wound up playing in nine regular season games and was inactive for seven. He also played in the team's playoff game against Minnesota where he had four tackles and his first career quarterback sack.

Peterson, who played mainly defensive tackle behind Cletidus Hunt last year, has practiced primarily at defensive end this off-season, and some tackle. The Packers are hoping that moving Peterson outside will bring out the best in him.

Peterson has played end before while at Ohio State, so playing the outside is nothing new. But playing in the final year of his rookie contract, he will have to produce more in training camp than he has in his first two seasons with the Packers, or face the harsh reality of getting cut.

Most would agree that this season is a turning point in Peterson's NFL career, but he doesn't see it that way.

"I wouldn't say a turning point, but it's a chance for me to better my game and understand this defense and let the coaches understand my type of game and what kind of player I am," Peterson said. "Everybody says, ‘This is a pivotal year, a pivotal year.' Which year isn't pivotal for anybody in the league? Each year, somebody is out there striving to get your job and position. This year, I've got to go out there and perform and play, and make plays. I'll let it take care of itself."

Based on Peterson's statistics, his 2005 season couldn't be more pivotal.

Peterson played in nine games and had 12 tackles (10 solo) last year. As a rookie, he also played in nine games and had 12 tackles (seven solo). So far, the progress hasn't been there for Peterson. In fairness to him, injuries have slowed him down. But injuries are part of football and he will need to avoid them and make plays, beginning in training camp, in order to extend his stay in Green Bay.

With camp just around the corner, the Packers will give Peterson every opportunity to prove that he can be an effective defensive end. With Grady Jackson and Hunt threatening to hold out of camp, Peterson may also get another shot to play more in the middle. He'll have plenty of competition, but the door is still open for him to produce.

"An opportunity gained is an opportunity taken. Cullen Jenkins stepped up and Corey Williams stepped up when I was down," said Peterson, who was projected as a first-round pick in 2003. "They played great. They made plays. Those guys were taking care of business. Sometimes in this business you've got to take the back seat. I don't mind. I'm a team player, so when my opportunity comes again, I'll take advantage of it."


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