Change nothing new for CB Lee

Including his career at Auburn, the second-year cornerback is learning from his fifth defensive coordinator. Given the age of the Packers' starting cornerbacks and the lack of a sure thing behind them, the team needs Pat Lee to step into a bigger role.

The numbers tell the story at cornerback.

Al Harris, at 34, is the Packers' oldest player.

Charles Woodson, at 32, is the Packers' fourth-oldest player.

Tramon Williams, the one and only cornerback on the roster who appears like he can be a capable starter, gave up too many big plays last season, including a team-high four touchdowns.

Will Blackmon has no interceptions and merely four passes defensed in three NFL seasons.

The numbers also tell the story for the Packers' other returning cornerback, Pat Lee.

Lee played in only five games last season as a rookie with just one tackle and one pass broken up. Including his five years at Auburn, Lee is learning a new scheme from a new defensive coordinator for the fifth time.

Lee laughed when asked if his head was swimming a little.

"Learning the defense all over again," he said with a shake of the head. "I'm better. I'm more comfortable hitting and stuff and I'm getting real good chemistry with my teammates."

The Packers selected Lee in the second round of the 2008 draft in large part because of his penchant for playing bump-and-run coverage at Auburn. With the change from the Jim Bates/Bob Sanders defense to the new scheme led by coordinator Dom Capers, the bump-and-run has been de-emphasized, though not totally phased out.

Lee is confident he can adapt to the mixture of man and zone concepts being implemented by cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt Jr. — a former Auburn wide receiver — considering he had to adapt to the frequent changes in style in college.

"When I was at Auburn, I went through three D-coordinators," Lee said. "One of the D-coordinators played zone, so I'm comfortable playing zone and man-to-man."

That comfort level showed on Wednesday, when practice was open to reporters and fans. During 11-on-11 drills emphasizing nickel and dime packages, Lee broke up three passes, including one in which he ripped the ball out of the hands of star receiver Donald Driver.

The Packers need that kind of play from Lee, who intercepted four passes as a senior at Auburn. He looked mostly overmatched during training camp last summer, and despite a strong Family Night performance and two pass breakups apiece in preseason games against San Francisco and Denver, he never challenged Williams or Blackmon for the nickel job.

Lee played in four consecutive games early in the season after Harris was out with his injured spleen. When Harris returned, Lee was a gameday inactive for the next three games before getting some playing time in the blowout loss at New Orleans. Lee suffered a minor knee injury in that game and wound up on season-ending injured reserve.

Interestingly after the season, then-cornerbacks coach Lionel Washington downplayed the possibility that the injury hurt Lee's progression. Instead, Washington said that sometimes, players are playing but they're not improving, and thought the view from the sideline might have been helpful from a mental standpoint.

"It was frustrating, because I wanted to play, but that's how it is sometimes," Lee said. "You've just got to wait. Now, I'm healthy."

With Harris and Woodson not getting any younger and Blackmon more of a punt returner than standout cover man, the Packers need Lee to blossom into at least a quality reserve this season. So, perhaps all of those scheme changes he's dealt with and the untimely end to his rookie season will pay dividends.

"Anything that the coaches want, I'll do it just to get on the field," Lee said.


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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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