DL Pickett the strongman on Packers’ line

The departures of receiver Donald Driver and defensive back

Charles Woodson in the offseason gave Ryan Pickett a new title with

the Green Bay Packers.

While B.J. Raji gets the headlines when it comes to the Packers’

defensive line, alongside him is the durable Pickett, who goes into

his 13th NFL season as the oldest player on the roster at the age

of 33.

With the Packers playing their second preseason game at St.

Louis on Saturday night, Pickett returns to where his lengthy

career started when he was one of the Rams’ first-round draft picks

in 2001. Pickett isn’t getting sentimental about playing his former

team in the Edward Jones Dome, something he’s done a few times

since leaving St. Louis and signing as a free agent with the

Packers in 2006.

”I’ve been here so long I’d forgotten about (playing for) St.

Louis, really,” Pickett said Thursday. ”It’s just another game

for me.”

Having played more than 200 games as a pro – from preseason to

the regular season to the playoffs – Pickett is looking forward to

many more. He wants to keep playing past this season after his

four-year contract with the Packers runs out.

”This won’t be my last year playing,” Pickett said.

And Pickett isn’t ready to leave Green Bay, where he’s been a

run-stuffing mainstay in the starting lineup and has a home with

his wife and their six young children.

”I’d love to stay here, absolutely,” Pickett said.

The Green Bay coaches are happy to have Pickett back for another

season as a dependable anchor on the defensive line.

”Ryan’s a rock, and Ryan knows his role on this defense and he

takes great pride in it,” defensive line coach Mike Trgovac

said.

With no more than 1 1/2 sacks in any of the previous seven

seasons with the Packers and none the last two years, Pickett has

left the splash plays on defense to the likes of linebacker Clay

Matthews and Raji. But Pickett has been productive in his own right

by splitting double teams in the trenches and wrapping up the ball

carrier.

Defensive coordinator Dom Capers singled out Pickett’s efforts

in a run-oriented drill at practice Wednesday.

”He was in the backfield two or three times and being

disruptive, which is what `Pick’ can do,” Capers said.

Pickett led Green Bay’s defensive linemen last season with 75

tackles, his highest total since Capers was hired to run the

defense in 2009 and implemented a 3-4 scheme.

”Since I’ve been here, I thought that was his best year,” said

Trgovac, who also joined the Green Bay staff in 2009. ”Even when

he’s tired, you put him in the game, he hustles to the ball, he

does what you tell him to do. It’s naturally in his DNA.”

Pickett’s workmanlike contributions and his longevity in the NFL

are testaments to his generally good health and a determination to

play every week. Pickett has missed only 14 games in his career. He

started every game in 2012, the first time he played an entire

season since 2008.

”You play this game, you get nicks and bruises and stuff like

that,” Pickett said. ”(But) I didn’t even think about it that I

played every game last year. That’s what I normally did throughout

the years – I don’t miss too many games.”

Raji, who has been a running mate of Pickett on the D-line since

2009, isn’t surprised by Pickett’s staying power.

”Pick takes good care of his body,” Raji said. ”He’s

obviously a tough guy to play nose (tackle) for 13 years. You have

to be tough mentally and tough physically.”

For the 6-foot-2, 338-pound Pickett, managing his weight has

helped him play at a high level. And being the oldest Packer in the

locker room is a distinction Pickett embraces.

”I get all of the `old’ jokes now,” a smiling Pickett said.

”I catch them pretty much every day. But it doesn’t bother me. I

love it. I tell ’em (his teammates) I’ve been around long enough to

have these old jokes cracked at me, so I’m doing something

right.”

Also Thursday, coach Mike McCarthy defended Aaron Rodgers after

Driver made critical remarks about the quarterback during an ESPN

radio interview.

Driver, who retired in February as the Packers’ all-time leading

receiver, was asked whether Rodgers is a ”me” guy following

similar comments by ex-Packers receiver Greg Jennings, now with

Minnesota.

”We’ve always been in the room and we’ve always said that the

quarterback is the one who needs to take the pressure off of

everyone else,” Driver said. ”If a guy runs the wrong route, it’s

easy for the quarterback to say, `Hey, I told him to run that

route,’ than the guy to say, `Hey, I ran the wrong route.’

Sometimes you ask Aaron to take the pressure off those guys so we

don’t look bad. He didn’t want to do that. He felt like if you did

something bad, you do it. That’s the difference. You want that

leadership. I think sometimes you may not feel like you got

it.”

McCarthy said he was aware of Driver’s interview and some of the

comments that were made.

”Frankly, I think Aaron manages his job responsibility very

well,” McCarthy said. ”I’m very fond of Donald. I know he’s going

through a tough period right now with his loss (his father’s

death), and my thoughts and prayers are out to him and his family.

But I don’t know what to really say about the comments.”

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