Unselfish Poppinga relishes challenge

Brandon Chillar could take Brady Poppinga's starting job — not to mention cost him millions of dollars — but the incumbent strong-side linebacker is helping his challenger learn the defense.

Brady Poppinga admits to losing sleep since the Packers signed Brandon Chillar to challenge him for the starting job at strong-side linebacker.

Chillar's arrival in Green Bay may cost Poppinga his starting job, not to mention a multimillion-dollar contract extension. But that's not why Poppinga has tossed and turned instead of sleeping like a lamb.

Instead, he's excited about the challenge and what it might mean for an already-sound defense. So much so, that he's helping Chillar learn the playbook.

"I'm still trying to learn the scheme, and he's actually helping me out," Chillar said after the Packers' practice last Wednesday. "It shows a lot of class. He's got a lot of character."

Chillar, who signed a two-year, $5.4 million deal with Green Bay after an agreement to sign with Arizona fell through because of salary-cap reasons, is the Packers' only notable offseason acquisition. He's stronger in pass coverage than Poppinga, so he likely will be given every opportunity to win the starting role.

Still, Poppinga is helping his challenger — and new friend — learn the ins and outs of the defense.

"There's two sides to competition, and depending on how you handle it it'll either build you or it can tear you down," said the hard-hitting, full-speed-ahead Poppinga. "Him being here, I think there's a competition component, and I think it's going to build us up as a linebacking corps."

Poppinga is entering the final year of his original four-year contract. He started the first 15 games last season — sitting out the opening play in Week 17 because the Packers lined up in their nickel package, and played on just more than half of the defensive snaps. He played well enough last season — and improved his coverage skills enough — that the Packers began preliminary contract talks in March with Poppinga's agent, Michael Hoffman.

Hoffman did not respond to several messages left in the past 10 days for this story.

Those preliminary negotiations were held before the signing of Chillar, so it's possible the Packers have put those talks on hold to see how their presumed training camp battle shakes out.

Surprisingly, given the amount of money he might lose if he falls out of the starting lineup, Poppinga said he was "elated" the team added Chillar.

"It gives our defense many different options as to how we can attack an offense," Poppinga said. "It's really made it hard for me to sleep at nights because I'm excited about this (upcoming) year."

Chillar is excited, too, especially after coming off of a three-win season in St. Louis, where as a fourth-year pro he started all 15 games in which he played.

"What I'm here to do is just help the team win, and if that means whatever the coaches want me to do, I'll do it to the best of my ability," Chillar said.

Steve Lawrence is a frequent contributor to PackerReport.com. E-mail him at steve_lawrence_packers@yahoo.com

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