Packers’ Ryan Pickett can play ‘3-4 more years, easily’

GREEN BAY, Wis. — When Ryan Pickett arrived for the Green Bay Packers’ offseason training activities, the 33-year-old defensive lineman realized he was officially the oldest player on the team. The departures of Donald Driver, Charles Woodson and Jeff Saturday forced Pickett into accepting that title, whether he actually felt old or not.

But that’s just it. Pickett doesn’t feel old. After 12 years in the NFL, he still believes he has a lot left in the tank.

“I feel like I can play another three or four years, easily,” Pickett told during minicamp. “It depends on how my body feels. If my body starts feeling bad, then I’ll call it quits. But I feel great.”

Pickett is arguably getting even better with age. The wall that most veteran NFL players hit when they go from productive to ineffective has yet to find Pickett.

“He played as good last year as any of the four years that I’ve been here,” defensive coordinator Dom Capers said of Pickett. “I think that with ‘Pick,’ he’s really lighter than he’s been. He played more plays last year. He’s very good at specific roles. We just have to make sure we’re using him in those roles. He’s smart, he knows how to use up two blocks. He knows how to play pressure with pressure. All those things that experience teaches you.

“I don’t know how long he can go. If he can play like he did last year, he’ll certainly have a role.”

Pickett is wondering, though, how many more years he’ll be playing in Green Bay. He’ll make $5.4 million for the 2013 season but is then an unrestricted free agent next offseason.

“That would be a dream (to retire with the Packers),” Pickett said. “That’s exactly how you want it. But it’s a business and you realize that. So I don’t even worry about it. I’m just going to go out and play my best ball and know that whatever happens, happens.”

While some players with Pickett’s experience and reputation might get comfortable and relaxed in the latter stages of their careers, the 29th overall pick in the 2001 draft refuses to accept mediocrity for himself.

“I approach every year like I have to prove myself all over again,” Pickett said. “That’s how I look at it. It’s another year I have to prove myself and that’s my motivation. I’m in the last year of my contract and I’m getting older, but I feel great. Just another chance for me to go out and prove myself.”

Pickett did add one detail to his claim that he feels great. He hasn’t participated in any of the team’s OTA sessions or minicamp practices, but it isn’t a case of a veteran looking to avoid extra workouts.

“I just had a little hamstring pull during training,” Pickett said. “I’m feeling much better now. But now it’s kind of precautionary keeping me out. Other than that, other than my hamstring, I feel great.”

Pickett added that the injury happened “a few weeks back,” but he wouldn’t specify to which leg.

There’s no concern from Pickett’s teammates, however. They’re confident in what he’s going to deliver for the Packers defense this year.

“His value comes when the season starts,” fellow defensive lineman B.J. Raji said. “He’s able to get sideline to sideline very quickly (and) he’s able to play most of the blocks that you see at nose and actually makes a ton of plays. I feel Pick’s value to the team is going to come in September and so forth.”

There’s plenty of wisdom for Pickett to share, too. That’s one benefit of keeping an older player around in a league that is always looking to get younger.

“It’s funny, because the other day (Pickett) was actually teaching us how to properly take on a double team,” Raji said. “I think he’s one of the best at doing it in the league, to be able to take on two blocks . . . so there’s not a big hole for a running back. He’s able to take two and stay put. I think Ryan is one of the best at that, and he was actually helping us with that.”

With his contract expiring and a desire to keep playing beyond this season, Pickett — who’s never had more than two sacks or 65 combined tackles in any one season — hopes that Green Bay’s front office appreciates the things he does that don’t show up in any statistical category.

“It’s kind of difficult for me, in my job, because I’m just supposed to tie up blockers,” Pickett said. “But I make tackles. I count my tackles, and I have a lot of tackles. That normally means I did pretty good.

“There’s no stat for (some of what I do). But teams notice it. Coaches notice it. So, it’s all right. I love it.”

Whether Pickett plays out this season and retires or he successfully spends another three or four years in the NFL like he wants, his goal remains the same for this current Packers team.

“Super Bowl,” Pickett said bluntly. “I want to win another Super Bowl this year. That’s my whole goal this year. That’s all I’m focused on. We’re just more poised (as a team to win it this year). We had good seasons, but we just have to finish. We have to start off better than we did last year. We’re putting some pieces together. We should be better.”

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