B.J. Raji, the Packers' $28.5 million defensive linemen, will be counted on to demolish plenty of offensive linemen, swallow plenty of running backs and squash many quarterbacks during the course of his five-year contract.
So, naturally, on the first play of Raji's professional career, the 337-pound defensive lineman … dropped into coverage as part of a zone blitz.
In the victorious Packers locker room after Saturday night's 31-21 win, Raji could only laugh at his first taste of an NFL game.
It was a relatively uneventful debut for the No. 9 pick of the draft. He played a dozen snaps and, if historians decide to dust off the stats from this game 20 years from now while chiseling his bust for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, they won't see Raji's name on the page labeled "Final Defensive Stats." That's because he wasn't involved in a single tackle against Buffalo.
"It felt good," said Raji, who made his practice debut on Monday after signing last Friday. "I got out there and ran around a little bit. I wanted to execute the defense the best that I could and I think I did a pretty good job at that."
Coach Mike McCarthy was impressed with what he saw. Raji, who made his debut with about 6 minutes remaining in the first quarter, got most of his snaps at left defensive end and also played as one of the two linemen in the nicke4l. Facing the Bills' no-huddle offense tested where Raji is at physically and mentally.
"I had a chance to watch him a little bit and I thought he got some penetration," McCarthy said. "I think he's going to be an exciting young player for us. He broke contain on that one quarterback scramble, but other than that, I thought it was a good start for him."
Raji showed his brute strength a couple of times. On the play after dropping into coverage, he fired his hands into fellow rookie Eric Wood to get the guard reeling backward. On the first play of the second quarter, he overpowered veteran center Geoff Hangartner to send quarterback Trent Edwards scurrying from the pocket and Hangartner falling onto his back. Holding was called, though it was called against the blocker facing Cullen Jenkins.
"That was one of the plays when I was able to get physical. I was using the best of my abilities and intertwine that with the defense," said Raji, joking in his radio interview with Packers Hall of Fame center Larry McCarren that it's in a lineman's "blood to hold and grab and cling onto you."
Last week, Raji said he had fun just hanging out with his teammates during the Packers' 17-0 victory over Cleveland. He had a lot more against Buffalo, helping the defense author a second consecutive first-half shutout.
"It was incredible tonight because I haven't played in a game since the Senior Bowl, so it was fun to get back out there and get to hit somebody."
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.