GREEN BAY, Wis. — Five months after undergoing surgery to repair his torn right hamstring, Packers inside linebacker Desmond Bishop is nearly back to full health.
“I’m feeling really good right now,” Bishop said last week. “The main thing I’m lacking is my strength, and my strength is coming back real fine. I’m excited about it.”
There are no physical hurdles left for Bishop to clear. The 28-year-old can work out and exercise just like he always had prior to his injury.
“I can do everything: jump, run, laterals,” Bishop said. “It’s just a matter of doing it fast and explosive.”
Given his progress and the six months remaining before the start of the 2013 training camp, it’s no surprise Bishop expects to be a full participant in that first team practice.
“No doubt in my mind at all,” he said. “I’m going to be ready to go. I have a lot of pent-up anger. I don’t know, whatever you want to call it. I’m going to be ready, for sure.”
Bishop entered training camp in July coming off a 2011 season in which he led the Packers in tackles, even though he played in only 13 games. Had Bishop not missed three games late in the season with a calf injury, he would have easily finished in the top 10 in the NFL in tackles. In fact, he was on track to make his first Pro Bowl appearance. Instead, Bishop had to settle for being a Pro Bowl alternate.
Bishop never got a chance to build upon that success this season, though. In Green Bay’s first preseason game on Aug. 9, he suffered a season-ending injury to his hamstring. A few weeks later, the Packers made it official by placing Bishop on injured reserve.
“No more setbacks,” Bishop said. “I can’t really afford it. This is it.”
Bishop didn’t become a full-time starter until 2010, replacing an injured Nick Barnett in the lineup in Week 5. Bishop should have several good years left in the NFL, but on a young Packers team in a league that is always getting younger, he was already the team’s 12th-oldest player this season.
“Next year is another year, whether it be my last or I play 10 more after is irrelevant,” Bishop said. “Next year is next year and I’m going to hit it full stride.”
Green Bay’s defense struggled in most areas in 2011 when Bishop was healthy, but it was hardly his fault. During a season in which the Packers gave up the most passing yards in NFL history and finished 27th in sacks, Bishop was Green Bay’s second-best defensive player behind Clay Matthews.
This season, the Packers improved in several defensive categories without Bishop. However, there is no question his presence on the field would’ve given an improved group a significant boost had he not been watching from the sideline.
“Of course I believe I could’ve helped,” Bishop said. “I’ve always believed that, since the first day I came here. Nothing has changed, nothing ever will change.”
Getting Bishop back on the field next season will help, but that by itself won’t be enough to fix a defense that has allowed a combined 82 points in its past two postseason losses.
“We just need a better mindset as a defense,” Bishop said. “You see it in a few people but you need an entire team in order to be successful. I think that’s what we need to change the most.”