GREEN BAY – For the second time this season, the Green Bay Packers are taking on a reclamation project, hoping they can build back up an athletic running back who once had a promising future.
It didn’t work with Knile Davis, who was cut two weeks after the Packers traded a conditional draft pick for the former Kansas City Chiefs third-round selection. The Packers stuck with rookie Don Jackson as their No. 3 instead.
This time around, they acquired Christine (pronounced Chris-ten) Michael, who was taken one pick after the Packers selected running back Eddie Lacy with the 61st pick in the 2013 draft. Michael was claimed on waivers Wednesday and after taking a red-eye to Green Bay later that night, practiced with the Packers on Thursday morning.
“Excited, you know what I mean, and tired from that flight,” Michael said after practice. “But I'm here now. God's taking care of me. I mean, I got my clothes, got my equipment, got me all checked in. I'm just ready to go, man.”
Michael’s acquisition might have been an exploratory mission at first, but when Jackson injured his knee in practice Wednesday afternoon, it became a matter of need. Not long after Jackson was taken away with what he said Thursday is probably torn cartilage in his left knee, general manager Ted Thompson was on the field discussing Michael.
The two men agreed that it was worth submitting a waiver claim for the fourth-year back, who was on his second stint with the Seahawks, the first unceremoniously ended with a trade to Dallas last year for a conditional draft choice.
“Dynamic football player,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “I love his running style. Once again, he's productive, his ability to get in and out of breaks. I think the one thing I know best about him is just the way he's able to change direction and explode on the second and third cuts. I think he's a good fit for us."
The 5-10, 220-pound Michael tested off the charts at the scouting combine in ’13, running the 40-yard dash in 4.54 seconds, registering a 43-inch vertical jump and benching 225 pounds 27 times.
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But his production hasn’t matched his athletic ability and his commitment to the game has been worse. The Seahawks tired of his immaturity — he was late to meetings, didn’t take coaching well and embarrassed himself with some on-field antics — but decided to give him another chance late last year after Dallas let him go.
Michael said he cleaned up his act and gave the Seahawks everything he had this season. But even though he was their leading rusher, it wasn’t enough. They decided they were better off with Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise.
Michael has set career highs in games started (seven), rushing yards (469), rushing touchdowns (six), receptions (20) and receiving yards (96) this season, but over the last three games he had just 20 carries.
“When the Seahawks brought me back, I put a lot into making sure I’m doing everything right, being on time, being a good team player, running the ball, just trying to be a good team player,” Michael said. “Some things just don’t work out. So I just have to regroup, start back over from scratch here with the Packers and man, just build the days, build the days and learn from everything that I went through in the past and try to help become a better person, a better teammate, a better player.”
The Packers’ personnel department did research on Michael to figure out whether he would fit with their locker room.
"That's really part of the process," McCarthy said. "We've got great culture in there and we're looking forward to welcoming him to our football team and him being part of that culture."
On the practice field, Michael got hugs from various members of his new team as he moved around through drills. He had a little bit of time to reacquaint himself with Lacy, whom he had met at a rookie orientation seminar.
Waiting for him in his locker was a playbook, which will become his closest companion over the next few days. Just like running backs coach Ben Sirmans did with Davis when he arrived, Michael will receive a crash course on the offense and then possibly have a package of plays drawn up for him for the Washington game on Sunday.
A lot will depend on how well Michael picks things up.
"I'm familiar with some of the stuff,” Michael said. “Some stuff is just like Seahawks, some of the stuff is just like (Texas) A&M, when I was back in A&M, that I picked back up right away.
“That's just it, just getting the playbook. It's just like studying for a test, like studying in college. You've just got to put your mind to it and get after it.”
The Packers don’t practice Friday, so Michael will spend the day with Sirmans. Then, Saturday they’ll hit the field for the last time and a decision will be made on whether he’s ready to help James Starks and Ty Montgomery establish some kind of running game for the pass-happy Packers.
“It’s early right now,” offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett said. “Coach McCarthy will have a plan for him and we’ll get him up to speed.”