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Walden looks past suspension, focuses on making team

Aug. 2, 2012
 

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Green Bay Packers linebacker Erik Walden during training camp practice inside the Don Hutson Center on Friday, July 27, 2012. / Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette

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Erik Walden drew little interest in free agency this offseason because he believes teams were scared off by the possibility he would be suspended to start the regular season.

Now that he has been suspended for the regular-season opener for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy, he hopes it doesn’t affect his chances of making the Green Bay Packers’ roster.

“I’m just worried about what I can control,” Walden said Thursday in his first public comments since the suspension was announced on Tuesday. “As long as I feel like I’m playing at a high level, it just puts pressure on them to make those decisions, then I’ll feel good about it.”

Walden, who started 15 games last season, already has been replaced with the starters by first-round pick Nick Perry and is fighting for a backup job.

He was a free agent in the offseason and re-signed with the Packers in April. He signed just a one-year, $700,000 contract, the league minimum for a fifth-year player. Walden believes the possibility of a suspension kept teams from pursuing him.

“With that going around, I think it did,” Walden said. “But that whole time I knew I wanted to be back in Green Bay, and I had made that clear to (general manager) Ted (Thompson) and coach (Mike) McCarthy.”

Walden learned of his suspension before he reported for training camp last month, but the suspension wasn’t announced until this week, when his appeal was rejected.

“The commissioner made a decision,” Walden said. “It’s unfortunate, but I respect it, and I’ve got to face the consequences.”

Walden’s suspension stems from a domestic incident on Nov. 25, 2011 with his then live-in girlfriend. In February, he reached a deferred judgment agreement to resolve disorderly conduct-domestic abuse charges without pleading guilty. He agreed to perform 50 hours of community service and undergo counseling.

Walden said he and his girlfriend, the mother of his two children, aren’t living together anymore, but remain close. She has been living in Tennessee.

“Everything’s great,” he said. “We decided to start over and build it back up. We’re talking and communicating and doing everything we normally do, we’re just not doing it here. She’ll be here for Family Night. We decided to take this step and get back where we’re both happy, and we’re the best of friends again.”

rdemovsk@greenbaypressgazette.com and follow him on Twitter @RobDemovsky.

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If you've ever answered "Who has the ball?" with "It's halftime," you might recognize The Airhead. Check out the characters in our cartoon gallery of oddball fans.

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