Heck, it seemed as if Poppinga, a "throwback" type of player, was ready to play Monday night against the Baltimore Ravens. If we turned back the clock to the pre-1970s, Poppinga probably would be preparing for the next game while icing his knee daily. But nowadays, when speed and quickness is essential, he'll undergo the knife within the next week in Green Bay to help insure that he will regain his speed and quickness.
If you think Poppinga is down because of the injury, think again.
"I'm a motivated guy," said Poppinga, shifting his weight from one leg to the other, bending his left knee occasionally. "It sucks, but what am I going to do about it? Cry? I've already cried. I'm going to get this thing right. That's what I'm going to do."
Poppinga is facing a 10- to 12-month rehab schedule. It is very possible that he will miss the first part of next season, but he's not looking at it that way. His positive attitude and work ethic, clearly evident since he arrived in Green Bay last spring from from the NFL draft, will help him accomplish his goal of returning by the start of training camp.
In the meantime, he's dealing with the mental anguish of starting his first NFL game to the latest entry on the team's season-ending injured reserve list.
"It's tough, I don't know, I don't look at it as a guy that's affected by circumstances. I create my own circumstances," Poppinga said. "The fact that I got hurt, fine, it's a reality. I accept that risk when I play the game. I know it's part of the game. It's not a matter of if I'm going to get hurt, but when and what am I going to do about it? The thing that hurts me the most is the fact that I won't be able to play for a while. Now, what am I going to do about it? I'm going to get it right. It's going to be a long haul. I'm going to do whatever it takes to get it back to normal, and I will get it back to normal."
Poppinga suffered the injury while covering a kickoff Sunday night against Detroit Lions. As he was trying to shed off a blocker, his left leg was planted and he was hit from behind by Packers linebacker Roy Manning, and Poppinga when down.
"Everything wrong that could go wrong happened at that moment," Poppinga said. "It all had to happen in that split second."
Poppinga was assisted off the field by trainers, but an MRI test revealed a tear of the anterior cruciate ligament.
Before that 'moment,' Poppinga had worked his way up the ladder on Green Bay's depth chart. He began the season as third string at strong-side linebacker but progressed to the point where he earned a start last Sunday against the Lions. The fact that he leads special teams in tackles, his intensity and desire to study film and improve helped him climb the ladder.
Poppinga agrees that he made enough of an impression on the team's coaching staff to earn a chance to contribute more in 2006. So, he's not going to let a knee injury get in the way of his football goals.
I'm not going to change who I am and how I play," he said. "In a way it will make me a better person and better player."
That's all Poppinga and the Packers can hope. Losing the rookie is a major blow, but Poppinga aleady is softening the blow with his attitude and desire to be ready for 2006. It's not a sure bet that he will be, but now is not the time to bet against him.
Todd Korth is managing editor of PackerReport.com and Packer Report. E-mail him at email@example.com.