The energetic Poppinga has used his belief in the wolverines' healing ability to overcome a few previous major injuries in high school and while at Brigham Young University to get ahead of schedule as he bounces back from a major knee injury. In fact, Poppinga will quickly point out that he is already past the rehab stage of re-gaining strength in his surgically repaired left knee.
"The rehab's coming along great," Poppinga said. "It depends on what rehab means. If rehab means gaining strength and range of motion, that was over a few months ago. My mindset now is that I'm in the training phase, getting myself ready to play football."
Poppinga sustained a torn anterior cruciate ligament last Dec. 11, after making his first start of the season against the Detroit Lions at outside linebacker for Na'il Diggs. Poppinga underwent surgery two weeks later, but his wolverine-like ability to heal already kicked in.
"Wolverines have a tendency to heal fast and I'm one of those wolverines," Poppinga said. "I can just feel it, as soon as I hurt myself, I can feel the tendons start to heal up. I don't know what it is. I have faith in God, too.
"It's a combination of different things – attitude, physical, spiritual, genetics."
Poppinga, a Mormon, overcame a torn muscle in his gluteous during high school with a challenging one-year rehab. While at BYU, he was out of action for eight months with a herniated disc. When he went down with a knee injury against the Lions, early indications were that he probably will begin the season on the team's physically unable to perform list and miss the first six weeks of the regular season, based on players who have recovered from a torn ACL.
"The problem with history or statistics is they never surveyed Brady Poppinga," Poppinga said. "You've got to take it case by case. I can't tell you whether I'm going to be back or not (by the opener). When I do come back it will be right."
Poppinga purchased a home in Green Bay shortly after he was selected by the Packers as the second of two fourth-round choices in the 2005 NFL draft. He has worked diligently on his rehab throughout this off-season. Though he has not been able to participate in the team's mini-camps and current Organized Team Activities practices, he takes mental reps while watching from the sideline each day. He is hoping that the medical staff, coaches and personnel chiefs will clear him to practice when training camp opens July 28.
"We'll have to put our heads together and see where we're at at that particular juncture in time," Poppinga said.
Poppinga played in 12 games last season. Despite missing the final three games of the season, he was second on the team in special teams tackles with 22.
The Packers are in the midst of revamping their linebackers corp. Green Bay selected A.J. Hawk with the fifth overall pick, then took Abdul Hodge with the second of two third-round picks in the recent draft. With veteran Ben Taylor, second-year pro Roy Manning and starter Nick Barnett also in the fold, Poppinga realizes that nothing will be given to him when he is given the green light to return.
"I feel that way regardless if I was the starter or not," Poppinga said. "You've got to come out and make plays. Starting is a title. It doesn't give you an entitlement in terms of plays, or anything. Whenever you get the opportunity you have to make the most of it. That's where my mindset is right now. The coaches will make the decisions. I'm just worried about when I'll play."
Chances are Poppinga will return much sooner than others who rehab from an ACL injury. His attitude and ability to heal like a wolverine have definitely helped him along the way.