Is Tyrone Culver ready? That is what I'm hearing...
Safety Tyrone Culver has done everything he should to get ready to play in 2008 after he missed all of last season with a shoulder injury. He went through rehab, sat in on defensive back meetings, improved his strength and conditioning in the offseason program, and participated in all the OTAs and mini-camp. Now he just needs to get out there and tackle someone.
NFL players are not permitted to wear pads or go full-contact during offseason workouts and practices. They have to wait for training camp, and Culver is waiting for the opportunity to give his surgically repaired right shoulder a "test." He will get that test on July 28, which is the first day of camp and from what I hear, he won't hesitate.
"I'm going to lower the shoulder and go for it," Culver said. "Because the minute you think that something bad is going to happen, or you're going to get hurt, you're bound to hurt yourself again. When I get a chance to hit, I'm going at it. When you get the pads, get that first hit, you never think of it again after that. I'm really looking forward to the chance to get the pads and get that first contact in."
That is what I want to hear from a Green Bay Packers defensive back. He knows the coaches and trainers will be watching that first hit closely. He injured the shoulder last year while trying to make a tackle on punt coverage during the final preseason game in Tennessee.
Culver said he suspected immediately his season was over and he was likely going on injured reserve. He didn't know the extent of the damage but wasn't surprised when surgery was needed.
"I was just going to hit and got my arm a little extended, and when I went to go wrap, it just came right out of me," he said. "I kind of knew then and there. I knew something was definitely not right. I couldn't move my arm at that point."
Known by the coaches as a very intelligent safety with good speed and athleticism, Culver did his best to minimize the impact a year away from the field would have on his development.
"Because he got the full first year in and he's such a bright guy, he doesn't quite lose as much as maybe some others would," secondary coach Kurt Schottenheimer said. "You lose a whole year of being in there and practicing and getting better and working on things, but in his case he's not going to fall behind a heck of a lot because he stayed on top of things."
Culver attended position meetings when he could last season, and perhaps most important, he maintained a positive attitude both during his recovery and as he returned to the field during OTAs this spring.
"You want to look at it as another learning experience," he said. "I had a year off the field, but I also had a year in the meeting room. I was still up here, I was still learning the defense and I still stayed around it. I may not have gotten the game experience, but nonetheless I was still around the game and around the players. It feels good, just getting a chance to get on the field again, getting that timing back and the movement back. When you start making plays, you get that confidence again."
Culver will need that confidence to carry over to training camp, when he'll be in a difficult battle for a backup safety role. Schottenheimer said the team's five safeties are in essence divided into two groups. The top three - Nick Collins, Atari Bigby, and Aaron Rouse - are fighting for the two starting jobs. While the remaining two - Charlie Peprah and Tyrone Culver will compete for the fourth. Cornerback Jarrett Bush also has taken some reps at safety during offseason workouts, but his primary position is still at cornerback.
"We've got five safeties and there's a reason we only have five," Schottenheimer said. "We have five safeties we think certainly belong in the league. For Culver to belong on the Green Bay roster, Schottenheimer said he'll have to show "explosiveness in tackling and performance on special teams."
That makes Culver's confidence in his shoulder all the more important. He said at the conclusion of the June mini-camp that the shoulder is 100 percent and as strong as it was before, and he's well aware that the roster is deeper and more competitive than the one he made as the third safety in 2006.
"It's a lot more competition than it was when I first got here," Culver said. "It just shows the talent around here, and the young talent that's coming around here. Like any team, anything you're doing in life, you're going to have to compete, and that's all you can ask for is to bring the best out in you."
"He'll give everything he's got," Schottenheimer said. "He belongs in the league, he's a good player, but he's got tough competition here."
What do you think about Tyrone Culver? I want to hear it...