GREEN BAY – Through the first two days of Green Bay Packers training camp, the most surprising thing regarding cornerback Quinten Rollins isn’t that he’s full strength just nine months after having a ruptured Achilles tendon repaired.
It’s that he’s playing linebacker.
Rollins is still a defensive back, but in the first two practices he was playing the inside linebacker position safety Morgan Burnett played in Dom Capers’ dime package last year. The position isn’t the same under new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, but to the naked eye it looks similar.
“It’s a little different, but for the most part day to day it’s just football,” Rollins said.
Over his first three seasons, Rollins played outside and slot corner and last year Capers started to use him more in the slot because of his size and willingness to tackle. Having played just one year of college football, Rollins’ coverage ability was raw and he suffered his lumps.
Plus, injuries kept affecting his availability.
A ruptured Achilles can mean the end of a player’s career, but Rollins progressed so quickly after surgery that he was able to take part in OTA practices. The surgery was done by famed foot surgeon Robert Anderson, who moved his practice from North Carolina to the other side of Ridge Road from Lambeau Field.
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“It’s by the grace of God,” Rollins said. “There’s no other way to put it.
“The timetable, the precedent, was 12 months. I just hit the nine-month mark. It just crossed over nine on July 23.”
The coaches and medical staff are not pushing Rollins too hard, but the fact he was starting in the dime package ahead of safeties Josh Jones and Jermaine Whitehead and rookie Oren Burks speaks a lot to the offseason Rollins had and the trust defensive passing game coordinator Joe Whitt has in him.
Rollins lines up inside next to Blake Martinez in the dime and can cover backs, tight ends and slot receivers from his position. There are times when he’ll split out and cover a slot receiver as well.
It’s exactly what the departed Burnett was doing.
“If it adds value to the team, I’m all for it,” Rollins said. “As regards to what it is, I just hope I can fill the spot as good as Morgan. That’s what I’m planning to do.”
Coach Mike McCarthy said Rollins’ ability to play multiple positions made him a good fit for the dime package, where any number of personnel combinations are played. Rollins has to show he can run with receivers and cover consistently to keep the position, but it says something that he’s on one of the starting units.
"He’s earned that,” McCarthy said. “He’s really come back strong off the Achilles, so coming out of the OTAs we felt that we wanted to be more versatile with ‘Q’ because he’s that type of player.
“You’ll see him move around more, because at the end of the day you’re just trying to create more opportunities for your players and I think ‘Q’ definitely has that flexibility – not only to play all four downs but to play three, possibly four positions.”
Right now, however, he’s basically playing one.
Almost all of his snaps have come in that hybrid safety/linebacker position and none have come as an outside corner. After he tore the Achilles it seemed logical that the Packers might try him out at safety, which is something Rollins isn’t afraid of.
“I can do it,” he said. “But yeah, it’s different. (Cornerback), that’s where I’m comfortable. But that’s what the game is about, having depth.”
Rollins said he has not been told when or if he’ll play safety or outside corner, so he’s just focusing on what he’s being asked to do.
When asked if he felt like people shouldn’t count him out this year, he said, “You just took it right out of my mouth. I don’t have to say it.”