GREEN BAY — Like his beloved University of Wisconsin football team in tonight’s Orange Bowl, Vince Biegel is looking at the Green Bay Packers’ regular-season finale at Detroit as a chance to finish strong and set up an even better 2018.
Even if this year didn’t turn out the way he’d hoped.
“I’ve talked a lot about how winning your bowl game and how that propels you into your offseason — the positive energy, being able to push off on the right foot,” the Packers rookie outside linebacker said in advance of the Badgers’ game with Miami (Fla.) and Green Bay’s finale at Ford Field. “That was one thing coach (Paul) Chryst really stressed, and I think he’s done a great job of continuing to do that. And I expect nothing less in the Orange Bowl.”
Which is the approach Biegel is taking as he enters Sunday’s game, having played 101 snaps from scrimmage in his eight games since being activated off the physically unable to perform list.
“Absolutely,” Biegel said when asked if this is like his bowl game with the Packers out of playoff contention. “I think there’s going to be a lot of opportunities for young guys to go out there and make some plays. And obviously we’ve got some guys down and (there’ll be) some opportunities for not only myself but guys all over this locker room — guys that haven’t necessarily been heard of, being able to go out there and get game experience and make some plays.”
Those opportunities have been limited so far for Biegel, who has 11 tackles (seven solo), one tackle for loss, two quarterback pressures and one QB hit. With starting outside linebackers Nick Perry (ankle/shoulder) and Clay Matthews (hamstring) inactive for last week’s loss to Minnesota, Biegel played 16 defensive snaps without recording a stat or having an impact.
That wasn’t all that surprising to Packers coach Mike McCarthy, though, given the time Biegel missed after undergoing foot surgery in May after aggravating an injury during rookie orientation camp that dated back to his time at UW. The surgery forced him to miss all of the offseason program, including organized team activity practices and minicamp, and all of training camp. Biegel was added to the 53-man roster on Nov. 3.
“I think it’s clearly obvious that the players who don’t go through camp, it takes them a while,” McCarthy said. “(It) just blows me away sometimes (what people expect of them).
“We’re all excited to see a player that’s been hurt. Just take Vince, for example. I mean, Vince has been here every day through the summer, put so much into it, comes off PUP and there’s an expectation that he’s going to run out there and make plays. It’s nonsense. It’s not practical.
“I think both of those young guys are going to be really good players. It takes time. There’s a reason you go to training camp. … To get that done in season, it takes a little while longer, especially when you get one padded practice a week. And how many reps are you really getting compared to the grind — as much as you can grind — in training camp? It’s a whole different process, and it’s a process that’s necessary for everybody. And when you miss that in your first year, it’s a challenge.”
For his part, Biegel is hoping the challenge of his rookie year sets him up for an ultra-productive second NFL season, one that begins will full participation throughout the offseason program in spring and training camp in summer.
“This year’s been definitely an interesting year for me. It’s challenged me not just on the field but off the field — overcoming adversity, being able to stay positive. And through all that, I feel like I’ve grown not only as a football player but as a person,” Biegel said.
“I think anytime you’re missing experience — at any level — it’s definitely detrimental to you. Unfortunately, I missed OTAs, I missed camp, missed preseason, missed the first six games of the season. And, also making the jump from college to the NFL is a big thing. My first experience was kind of game reps. So being able to get a full offseason under my belt, being able to get healthy will be huge for me. I’m not making excuses at all. Listen to me: When I step out on the field, I’m full go. There’s no excuses.
“You’re not always going to be healthy, you’re not always going to have the chips stacked in your favor. The best thing you can do is go out there, execute at the highest level and do what you need to do to help the team win. That’s what I tried to do this year, and I’m going to work my tail off getting ready for the offseason, training, and getting ready for next year.”
Adams, Bakhtiari win Mulhern award
Before news of wide receiver Davante Adams’ new $58.75 million contract broke, the Packers wide receiver and veteran left tackle David Bakhtiari were honored as the recipients of the 2017 Tom Mulhern Stand-Up Guy Award, presented by the Green Bay chapter of the Professional Football Writers of America. The award is presented to the player or players voted to have shown “exemplary professionalism in helping pro football writers covering the Green Bay Packers do their jobs.”
“My mom is going to be really happy,” Bakhtiari said, smiling. “It just comes down to respect. It doesn’t matter at the end of the day the relationship between media and players, and whether there’s any rift at any point. We’re people. It’s good to act respectful.
“At the end of the day, offensive linemen, let’s call a spade a spade. I’m not an idiot. We’re not like the sexiest (guys) you want to talk to. So just being respectful.”
Because he remains in the NFL’s concussion protocol, Adams was not allowed by NFL rules to be interviewed after receiving the award.
The award is named for late Tom Mulhern, the former Wisconsin State Journal writer who covered the Packers (1986-1998) for the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Milwaukee Sentinel and Appleton Post-Crescent and State Journal before covering University of Wisconsin football for the State Journal from 1999 through 2014. Mulhern died in October 2014 from complications caused by Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease at age 56.