Collins excited for role on defense

The Pro Bowl safety talks to Packer Report about the new defense and his visit to Pearl Harbor while at the Pro Bowl in February.

Nick Collins might be unhappy with the status of contract talks — or, more accurately, that there haven't been talks — but that didn't stop him from enjoying his four days on the Packers' annual Tailgate Tour last week.

"That's part of the job, interacting with fans and people," a smiling Collins told Packer Report before signing a few hundred more autographs during the tour's final stop at Beaver Dam High School. "It's my fifth season, so this is a lot of fun."

Collins elected to skip most of the offseason program. Packers coach Mike McCarthy called it a "business" decision, as Collins enters the final year of his five-year rookie contract. Later, it was revealed Collins was dealing with personal issues, too.

Last week, in an interview with the Wisconsin State Journal, Collins' agent, Dave Butz Jr., confirmed those "personal family concerns" but said "despite any other issues or concerns, Nick would not be attending the offseason program — regardless of any family matters."

In an e-mail to Packer Report this week, Butz said there is "nothing new to report." And a source close to Collins told Packer Report that the Pro Bowl safety most likely will be absent when organized team activities start next week.

Collins, slated to make $3.045 million this season, did visit Green Bay for one week of the offseason program, and came away excited about his role in the new defense.

"It's a great defense," Collins said. "This is a defense that a safety would love to play in because you have a lot more freedom. You can just go out there and read the quarterback and have fun. I can't wait to just go out there on the field and have fun out there doing my job."

During the rides between tour stops, Collins studied the playbook. He downplayed the learning curve between the old and new schemes, saying the linebackers and defensive linemen faced the biggest changes.

Helping ease that transition will be new safeties coach Darren Perry. Perry played his first seven NFL seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers — starting with three years when Dom Capers was defensive coordinator — so he knows the scheme from a player's perspective. He also was a secondary coach for Pittsburgh from 2003 through 2006 before spending the previous two seasons in Oakland.

"Awesome coach," Collins said. "He's into the game. He loves the game. He obviously played the game, so he knows a lot about the game. He played in the 3-4 scheme so all the safeties love him, and we just have to go out there and be on the same page and be the dominant defense that we're capable of being."

A highlight of Collins' offseason — besides the birth of his third child — was playing in his first Pro Bowl. Collins and teammate Charles Woodson tied for the NFC lead with seven interceptions, and Collins returned a league-high three of them for touchdowns.

"Oh, man, it was a great experience," he said of the week in Honolulu. "It was a great opportunity to just go out there and play with a lot of veteran guys. There was like 20 first-year players over there, so it was a lot of fun. They embraced us like family."

Along with playing cards with some of the players, Collins was awestruck by his visit to Pearl Harbor.

"I'm not really a history buff, but when I was in school, we had to learn about Pearl Harbor, so I was fortunate to be able to see it," he said. "That was a great experience. Just going into Pearl Harbor was awesome. Just being over there, period, was a lot of fun."


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Bill also is giving Facebook and Twitter a try. Find him on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook.


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