Walden reunion awaits Packers vs. Colts

Bob McGinn
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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GREEN BAY - Outside linebacker Erik Walden, a starter for the Indianapolis Colts the past three seasons, will be playing against his former team for the first time Sunday in the Hall of Fame Game.

Walden left the Green Bay Packers less than an hour into the unrestricted free-agent signing period. He will be completing the four-year, $16 million contract ($8M guaranteed) that he signed March 12, 2013.

“I think we were trying to keep him and he left or something,” general manager Ted Thompson said Friday. “I don’t recall. I’ve seen him play in some games but I haven’t (studied) him.”

In 2013, Walden said he received strong interest from the Chiefs and Raiders but indicated the Packers made no attempt to re-sign him.

Walden would have started the Super Bowl for the Packers in his first season but an ankle injury suffered in the NFC Championship Game rendered him inactive and Frank Zombo replaced him.

In 2011 and ’12, Walden finished with the exact same total of 26½ pressures as a 25-game starter. He played 70.3 percent of the snaps in ’12.

His three-year numbers for the Colts, counting playoffs, include 50 games (49 starts), 14 sacks, 202 tackles and four turnover plays.

“When he was here he was good,” said cornerback Sam Shields. “He’s a nice, cool dude. I liked him.”

Walden, who will be 31 this month, remains the starter on the strong side in the Colts’ 3-4 defense opposite Robert Mathis.

“He’s strong at the point, has a good motor and gets after you,” said offensive lineman Don Barclay, who joined the Packers in 2012. “Good ballplayer. When he was here he was always good to me and helped me out … teaching me stuff along the way.”

Other former Packers on the Indianapolis roster are quarterback Scott Tolzien, tackle Jeremy Vujnovich and cornerback Tay Glover-Wright.

NOTES: After a poor season, Barclay thinks he’s back to his 2013 form. He missed the entire ’14 season after undergoing reconstructive knee surgery.

“I feel more explosive, a little quicker, more confident,” Barclay said. “It allows me to let loose a little bit.”

Of Barclay’s 423 snaps in 2015, 304 came at right tackle, 111 at left tackle and eight at right guard.

Barclay began camp this year spending most of his practice time at guard. However, with Corey Linsley (ankle) still out and Matt Rotheram playing more guard, Barclay recently has been the No. 2 center behind JC Tretter.

He also has taken reps at both tackles, making him a five-position backup.

“I feel comfortable at center,” Barclay said. “The snaps are coming along. It’s wherever I can help the team. I’m really working every day on my sets and my footwork.”

» The Packers haven’t indicated how much playing time, if any, their starters will see against the Colts.

Thompson was asked if the team felt a responsibility to play their top players at least briefly because the game has more of a national audience than most exhibition contests.

“You’re playing five preseason games,” Thompson said. “I do think it allows you the luxury and almost mandatory guidelines of taking it easy in terms of reps. Everybody gets a fair number of reps but we don’t overload anybody.

“Either way, you get back to that conundrum. Is it reps that you want? Experience that you want? Or is it good health and the (assurance) you’re not going to have a bum ankle or something like that? It’s betwixt and between.”

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