Manuel took part in some individual drills during the recent mini-camp in Green Bay, but he watched from the sidelines as Roman played free safety with the first-team defense in team drills. The Packers, who gave Manuel a five-year, $10 million deal in March, are being extra cautious as he recovers from a groin injury sustained during Super Bowl XL against Pittsburgh.
Manuel says he will take part in team drills when the Packers conduct their Organized Team Activies, beginning May 31 in Green Bay. Whether he is inserted ahead of Roman remains to be seen, but that's OK with Manuel. He played behind Roman during his first two seasons in the league in Cincinnati. Last year, Manuel played behind Ken Hamlin during the first six weeks of the season before Hamlin was injured (head) in a fight outside a Seattle nightclub and lost for the rest of the season.
So, playing behind a starter is nothing new for Manuel. In fact, he is more motivated than ever before.
"I only know one way – work from behind," Manuel said. "That's the only thing that I know, so it's tremendous. That's why I'm going to give this organization everything I can."
Manuel, 26, still has a lot to prove, like making big plays. He started the final 10 regular season games and all three playoff games for the Seahawks. Manuel finished with 67 tackles but had no sacks, no interceptions and just two passes defensed during the regular season. Though Roman was inconsistent with the Packers, he still finished with a career-high 105 tackles, two interceptions and eight passes defensed.
Manuel knows he has his work cut out for him, and realizes that he won't be handed the starting job unless he earns it.
"You can't never get fat," Manuel said. "The minute I get fat, I retire. That's what has kept me focused, from being a sixth round draft pick (Cincinnati in 2002), sixth on the depth chart to not playing and then going into the starting role."
Like most defensive backs, Manuel doesn't lack any confidence. He appreciates his new opportunity and vows to be prepared to make the most of it. "Finally, somebody gave me an opportunity to be a part of something, not ‘Am I going to make the team?' or ‘Am I going to play?'" Manuel said. "All that is hindsight now. Now I can focus on getting everybody on the same page that I'm on. It will be fun."
The fact that he will be competing against his former teammate, Roman, will add fuel to the fire, but not trigger any kind of animosity between the two.
"We always get along fine," Manuel said. "Don't forget we played on the same team in the same secondary, started four or five games together. Football is football, that's all I can say about that."
Todd Korth is managing editor of PackerReport.com and Packer Report. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.