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The Ryan Pickett Story

Discussion in 'Packer Fan Forum' started by PackOne, Aug 25, 2008.

  1. PackOne

    PackOne Cheesehead

    Apr 23, 2006

    Green Bay - There is a difference between being bored and being frustrated, and Ryan Pickett will tell you exactly what it is.

    Bored is what he is right now, rehabilitating a mildly injured hamstring throughout all of training camp as if his life depended on it because Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy wants to make sure his big run-stuffer is healthy and ready for that Monday night opener against Minnesota.

    It's mental torture to Pickett because, well, one look at Pickett explains why the 6-foot-2, 330-pound defensive tackle was destined to be on a football field and not hunched over a bench press.

    But frustrated? No.

    That's what Pickett was after five years in St. Louis, so much so that even after leading all defensive linemen in tackles in 2005, he signed on to come here before he even saw Green Bay. Trapped in a little medical facility on his visit all day, his wife, Jennifer, ran around town, reporting back to him on the cell phone that this was the place they needed to be.

    "What?" Pickett peered out the window for at least a glimpse of this tiny National Football League crazed town before he said something like, "Yes, dear."

    It didn't take much persuading.

    Boredom will make the mind wander on the stationary bike, but frustration will drive a man to start over in a totally unknown world.

    At first, St. Louis was ideal. The Rams were 14-2 in Pickett's rookie season in 2001. The Greatest Show on Turf had a pretty nice defense, too, ranked third overall by allowing just 279 yards, but Pickett's role was reserved.

    Pickett emerged as a starter in 2002, but the next four years always ended up coming up short compared to that impressive '01 season.

    The Rams were 7-9 in 2002; 10-6 in 2003; 8-8 in 2004; and 6-10 in 2005, with wild-card berths in '03 and '04 and just one playoff victory.

    Those defenses were also ranked, in the same order, 13th, 16th, 17th and 30th.

    "That was hard for me in St. Louis," said Pickett. "I was always grouped with how bad the defense was doing. It was, 'The defense is doing bad, so the first-round draft pick has to be doing bad.' If the defense was bad and we weren't winning, all the blame had to go someplace."

    Pickett, the first-round draft pick in 2001 (29th overall) was joined by two other first-rounders on the line, Damione Lewis (12th overall in 2001) and DT Jimmy Kennedy (12th overall in 2003). Pickett always was lumped into that group by critics as overrated and unproductive. When Pickett registered 115 tackles to lead NFL linemen in 2005, and it still didn't help one of the worst defenses in the league, he'd reached his breaking point.

    He was ready to test free agency.

    "It really wasn't tough to leave. It was pretty easy," said Pickett. "I was just ready to move on. The defense, we were always the bottom of the pack and I just think St. Louis is more of a baseball town. The football wasn't the first thing; it was more like we were the second team in St. Louis. I just thought it was time for me to leave it."

    Where next? Seattle? He booked a trip. Buffalo? Yes. . . .

    Green Bay? Why not?

    After talking to McCarthy on the phone a few times and trusting the feedback from his wife, Pickett joined Charles Woodson in the spring of 2006 as Green Bay general manager Ted Thompson's rare, high-profile free-agent signings.

    "I knew once he got to Green Bay he was like, 'Man, St. Louis was horrible' " in comparison, said Pickett's brother, Booker. "All the while he was in St. Louis he tried to be pretty positive even though he didn't care for it."

    Pickett's reputation in Green Bay is that is he as reliable as he is unheralded. But inside the locker room he's considered as irreplaceable as veteran cornerbacks Woodson and Al Harris. It's just that the anchor of the defense isn't going to get the sacks an end would, so there are few glorious moments. When Pickett is at his best, he is just clogging the drain.

    "Yeah, but he's not getting moved," said nickel cornerback Tramon Williams. "Can't nobody move him. He can hold it down for the run defense."

    Added tackle Johnny Jolly: "He takes up the double-team well. He has a lot of strength. There's nobody moving around Pickett."

    Even still, Pickett made 166 tackles in two years in Green Bay. And he stayed healthy. Though he was unaware of it until now, he also had a streak of 107 straight games played - 77 straight starts including playoffs - that began midway through 2003 and ended at the end of last season. In that streak, he played through a high ankle sprain, an injured hamstring and a groin injury.

    So his new injured left hamstring, which he tweaked just a week before camp started, doesn't bother him and doesn't seem to concern anybody else. That Pickett can basically sit out most of camp and draw no concerns that he can pick it up right away says a lot about his talent.

    "Hopefully I can play in the Tennessee game," Pickett said of the Packers' final exhibition game Thursday. "It's hurting to sit out. It's hard. It's one of the hardest things to do, especially watching the players go through the rough times, and you just want to go through them with them.

    "But I'm not really worried about it at all. I had a string of injuries before and bounced back."

    Pickett comes from a family of athletes.

    His father, Rubin Sr., was a standout baseball player who played a little in the minors. The story goes he was so slick and smooth they nicknamed him "Grease."

    Rubin's sons all played football. Rubin Jr. was called a linebacker with a "headhunter's mentality" by the St. Petersburg Times and also was a decent running back. He went on to play at Northeast Louisiana. After gaining 1,000 yards as a junior in high school, Booker switched over to play defensive tackle at the University of Miami. Ryan was nicknamed "Big Grease."

    At Zephyrhills (Fla.) High, just north of Tampa, Ryan was athletic enough to work out with Booker and the Hurricanes during tough summer conditioning in Miami. As a high school senior, Ryan could play offensive and defensive line and even linebacker.

    "Can you imagine that?" said Booker. "It's like, 280 playing middle linebacker? We said boy if you can play linebacker that big, you're special.

    "He still runs pretty well for a big guy and his quickness is pretty exceptional."

    Pickett said after spending the entire off-season here for the first time, he's in the best shape of his stint with the Packers.

    Sleep deprivation doesn't count. It's not unusual for him to wake up with little fingers pulling back his eyelids and someone going, "Are you up, Daddy?" Pickett has four children, the oldest 4 years old and the youngest seven weeks.

    Yet Pickett pushes on, on the treadmill during practice, in the pool, missing practice, fighting past the boredom, because in Green Bay, he feels he's making a difference even if he's not making headlines.

    "I love it here," Pickett said, tugging on his beard while in thought. "The last two years have been the best years of me playing football. I went through rough times for a reason. I love it here. I'll probably always be under the radar, but I don't care. I think I have the respect of my teammates and the coaches."
  2. IronMan

    IronMan Cheesehead

    Nov 23, 2006
    I have always maintained that a big DT is the most important part of a defense. It all starts up front. Good article.
  3. wischeez

    wischeez Cheesehead

    Dec 4, 2004
    I'm glad he likes it in GB. Man Mountain!

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