GREEN BAY – One moment, Bashaud Breeland felt he was headed home with $24 million in hand. The next, he was sitting in a doctor’s office with nothing.
The South Carolina native and Clemson University alumnus had agreed to a three-year deal with the Carolina Panthers as one of the top free-agent cornerbacks on the market, but a golf cart injury in the Dominican Republic evaporated that deal — and as a result, any chance for Breeland to find work until Green Bay called this week.
Breeland received a skin graft on the back of his left foot after cutting it on bicycle spokes as a fourth grader and had the injury reopened when a golf cart clipped him on the same spot in February.
“It was very tough, you know what I mean?” Breeland said after his first Packers practice Wednesday. “To have a deal like that taken away just for a freak accident, not even football-related, it was devastating. But at the same time, it made me who I am. So I don’t really regret it.”
So, instead of reaping the rewards of a four-year career as a starting corner in Washington that saw him intercept eight passes, break up 59 more and force seven fumbles, he had to stay in shape at EXOS training facilities in Phoenix and Charlotte and fly around the country for about 13 team workouts.
“I mean, I felt good like two months ago, a while back,” he said. “But teams had their precautions. Doctors got little pings on things. It’s a unique injury. A lot of doctors haven’t really seen this type of injury in this locker room. Just had to overcome that.”
The Packers brought Breeland in Tuesday, along with cornerbacks David Amerson and Arrion Springs, after it was determined that corner Davon House had suffered a season-ending shoulder injury.
“I think timing, we’re fortunate,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “I know the personnel department was excited after his workout. I’m glad he’s part of our football team.”
While Breeland has battled through some injuries in his career (strained right medial collateral ligament in the preseason in 2015, injuring an ankle in 2016 season) he has played in 60 of a possible 64 games since coming into the league.
That durability is needed, as starting corner Kevin King continues to recover from a groin injury. King, who said Wednesday the injury is improving and he has begun running, has missed eight of a possible 19 regular-season games in his short career.
“You can never have enough of any position and definitely the cornerback position has been a challenge for us from a health standpoint the last couple seasons,” McCarthy said. “And the fact we’re able to add a veteran with experience, that in itself is exceptional.”
Just 26, Breeland is now the third longest-tenured player in the Packers' secondary with four seasons under his belt. Only corner Tramon Williams (12) and safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (five) have been in the NFL longer.
That said, he knows he’s in a different situation than he was as an entrenched starter in Washington and a premier free-agent acquisition.
“I feel like I’m at a point to come here and prove that I’m still that player that I was last year,” Breeland said. “It’s hard not being out there playing on first team or playing every down like I’m accustomed to, but at this point I have to adapt to the situation, and I’m going to grow as best I can and do everything I can to get on the field as quick as possible.”
Breeland said the Packers were interested in him initially as a free agent in March, so they undoubtedly had done their research on him before making the call to bring him in Tuesday. He was cited for misdemeanor possession of marijuana in August of 2014 that resulted in a one-game suspension to start 2015, and he fought teammate Andre Roberts in a December, 2014 practice. He was also kicked out of a training camp walkthrough for an altercation with a teammate last year.
“I think like anything, anybody you bring into your program, there’s research done and I just, can’t say it again, I feel great about the addition and have zero concerns about how he’ll fit into the locker room,” McCarthy said. “We understand the youth of our team, but that’s the way the league is and we have some experience at it. So it’s important for everybody just to get going and we need to get him acclimated and hopefully he can help us.”
Breeland admitted he was inconsistent at times in Washington but feels he has a chance to reset not just his marketplace as a free agent in 2019, but transform how he’s perceived league-wide.
“I get a chance to really change the perception of Bashaud Breeland and really re-create a new player,” he said. “It’s a new start, a new beginning, a new journey for me. The energy around here is magnificent. I feel like that they’re going to help me to get to where I want to be.”
As for Sunday against Buffalo, Breeland feels he’s physically ready to play and will be able to grasp what he needs to out of defensive coordinator Mike Pettine’s playbook, but he knows there is a process to undergo in order to get back on the field.
“They’re going to work me in as best as possible,” he said. “When they feel like I’m ready, I’m ready. It really ain’t no rush at this point. I would love to get out there and play ball this Sunday if I get that chance, and I’m going to do my best to help this team win. But if not, it won’t be a devastating moment for me."