Peterson stepping it up

Defensive tackle, once on verge of getting cut, getting more playing time

Kenny Peterson was seated firmly on the bubble during the Green Bay Packers training camp this year. The third-year defensive lineman, a prime example of a "tweener," was without a niche in the Green Bay defense.

Peterson played tackle the past two seasons since getting drafted in the third round by Green Bay, but never held up physically. Peterson played in nine games in each of the last two seasons, often held out of games because of injuries. The coaching staff moved him to end during this off-season and at the start of training camp, but he wasn't effective.

With his back against the wall and on the verge of getting released, Peterson was shifted back inside late in camp. After playing well in Green Bay's final preseason game, he made the 53-man roster. Now, he's beginning to make some waves as part of the regular rotation among the team's defensive linemen.

"He was on the wire, and he knew it and he performed," said Packers coach Mike Sherman. "He knew he had to produce, and he did. And hopfully that will continue."

Peterson enters tonight's game against Carolina (8 p.m. CT, ABC) with six tackles and one pass defensed. He rotates into games with Corey Williams and Colin Cole behind starting tackles Cullen Jenkins and Grady Jackson. Jenkins, Jackson, Williams and Cole receive the bulk of the reps, but Peterson is making a case to get in on a few more plays. He had three tackles against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, including two key tackles on Carnell "Cadillac" Williams.

Sherman says that he is beginning to see Peterson mature more as a player. The coach has noticed Peterson using his feet and hands better and "being a little more physical."

"Very seldom does a defensive lineman, unless he's taken in the top 10 or the top 20 picks in the draft, just come on the scene and play. There's a certain maturation process it takes with those guys, and he's going into his third season and he's playing better. Much better."

Peterson says that he is simply more comfortable with his position on the line inside instead of end.

"I understand my position a little more," Peterson said. "It comes with comfort and confidence."

Knowing that he was on the verge of losing his job in training camp, also has seemed to light a fire under Peterson, who got his only sack of his career in last year's playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings.

"Every guy out here knows that your job could be taken at any minute," Peterson said. "You can be replaced at any minute. Like I told Coach Sherman, ‘Of course, I think about that. But if I go out there and play scared, then I won't be productive.' I just go out there and have fun and play ball like I know how, and pray that he puts me in position to make plays."

Tonight, Peterson and his teammates will be up against a familiar face in Mike Wahle. The veteran guard signed with the Panthers as a free agent this off-season.

"I've played on the ‘Look Team' a lot against him," Peterson said. "I know how Wahle plays, he's physical, a good player, athletic, strong. I'll just go out there and do what I can do."

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