Aaron Nagler talks Green Bay Packers roster moves and takes questions from fans on Facebook Live. (Sept. 13, 2017) USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin
GREEN BAY – Growing up southwest of Tampa, Fla., Geronimo Allison got his first exposure to football in the backfield. He was a make-you-miss running back in youth leagues, always dodging tacklers.
You wouldn’t expect it now. The Green Bay Packers receiver is tall and lanky. Standing 6-4, Allison has the body to jump over corners and high point passes, not pick up yards after the catch.
Except, Allison said, he wanted to return to his roots. Instead of being a big-target, possession receiver, his hope was to show coaches he could make plays with the football. He showed some open-field shiftiness this preseason, unleashing a couple juke moves to break tackles, and expects to pick up where he left off in camp as he returns from his one-game suspension this week.
“I was that type of style player,” Allison said, “and I told my friends back home and stuff that I wanted to get back to that guy, just making people miss and trying to get upfield and get as many yards as I can. Last year, I just wanted to make the right play, and make the catch and get as much as I can. So this year, I’m trying to just look for those defenders, see guys.
“My eyes are up this year, so I’m seeing guys flying around and just trying to put my foot in the ground and make people miss and get north.”
SILVERSTEIN: Packers' use of Bennett keeps opponents guessing
Allison will go south to Atlanta for the Packers' game Sunday night against the Falcons. It’s where he started his NFL career, catching his first touchdown in his first game last October.
After a suspension for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy forced him to miss last week’s win against Seattle, Atlanta once again will serve as his first game of the season.
Allison said he feels more comfortable within the Packers' offense, allowing him to play with his eyes up. With better vision, he’s able to see tacklers as they approach. He always has had an ability to make tacklers miss, Allison said. In high school, he was his team’s punt returner.
In the Packers' exhibition at Washington, Allison turned a 5-yard out route into a 25-yard highlight. He ran out of one tackle after the catch, then made a safety miss.
Coach Mike McCarthy said he has seen growth in his second-year receiver this offseason.
"Definitely, he made the leap,” McCarthy said. “You're looking for the second-year leap, and Geronimo in my view has taken that. He's bigger, stronger, playing with a ton of confidence. He can play all four positions in the wide receiver room, and he's a playmaker.
“I thought he improved in yards after the catch. The play in Washington is a great example of that."
League rules prevent suspended players from participating in practice and being in the stadium on game day. But Allison attended every meeting last week, gaining enough understanding of the game plan that he said he could predict plays while watching from home.
It was a pleasant distraction from the scary possibilities his hometown faced. Allison tracked Hurricane Irma’s path intently last week as it approached Florida’s Gulf Coast. His mother, brother and grandparents live in Tampa.
He was relieved when the hurricane diminished to a Category 2 storm by the time it hit his neighborhood.
“I honestly didn’t pay much attention to what was going on,” Allison said. “I checked on my family, my friends. Everybody had a game plan, and some of them was telling me they were going to come up here. As long as they had a game plan, and they knew what was going on, they prepared for it, I was OK.
“The only thing I did was, I called my older brother and made sure that he went and boarded up the house for my mom and stuff. Because at first, they weren’t going to board up the house or anything, but I told them to get on that because I would’ve done it if I was there.”
Allison said his hometown of Progress Village received minimal damage. His family did not lose power. Only one street flooded, he said, and “just a few trees” were ripped down.
Now, with the storm and suspension behind him, Allison hopes to have no further distractions. He’ll return as the No. 4 receiver, rotating whenever Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb or Davante Adams leave the field.
“Just being that utility guy,” Allison said, “being able to spare anybody a break. Go in for any one of those guys — the big three — and just go out there and compete. Just use my versatility to help us be more successful in our offense.”