GREEN BAY - The long-standing nickname is Blunt Force Trauma. Mike Pettine has that look — bald head, dark shades, no smile — to play the part. If he doesn’t like you, you know. The Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator doesn’t sugarcoat.
A year ago, Pettine didn’t much like Montravius Adams.
Not as a player, anyway. Adams was oversized and underdeveloped. His technique was rudimentary. His knowledge of the defense was lacking.
It was all the ways a young player could possibly draw ire from a particularly prickly defensive coordinator.
“When I first got here and met him in the spring,” Pettine said, “my opinion wasn’t real high. And he knows that.”
To hear Adams’ perspective: “It was just a mutual feeling that you understand that maybe he doesn’t think I’m good.”
So, no, Pettine isn’t here to inflate Adams’ ego. Even if the Packers need their third-year defensive lineman, a former third-round pick, to replace recently released Mike Daniels. Pettine is more, ahem, direct than that.
Keep that in mind when considering something else Blunt Force Trauma said about his young defensive lineman this week.
“If I had to vote somebody or say who’s most improved from a year ago,” Pettine said, “it would be Montravius. There would be a couple other guys in the discussion. But it’s been pretty obvious with him.”
Regarding improvement, perhaps Adams had more room for growth than most players, at least in the mind of his defensive coordinator. “He pushed me to be better,” Adams said.
It’s undeniable the Packers appear comfortable with Adams being a significant contributor on defense. He got first-team reps throughout the offseason, something that’s continued through the first week of training camp, lining up beside Kenny Clark and Dean Lowry. And Adams has done something with those reps.
Pettine watches practice now, and he sees a leaner, more explosive Adams disrupting plays. Like the rep earlier in camp when he shot through the offensive line, chasing down a running back. “You wouldn’t have seen that from him a year ago,” Pettine said. He believes it’s a sign of more confidence, a sureness in what he brings the defense.
Pettine is no less blunt when explaining where Adams has improved most. Is it physical conditioning? Technique? Knowledge of the scheme?
“Yes,” Pettine deadpanned. “It’s all of it.”
If there was a moment of clarity, the proverbial light bulb finally clicking on, Adams doesn’t know it. His progression, he said, has been gradual but constant. He had a lot to learn entering the NFL, yes, but Adams never doubted he could play. Not after a broken bone in his foot wiped out his entire rookie training camp, effectively rendering his first season a redshirt year. Not after his second year ended with just 212 snaps.
By late last season, Adams had shown his coaches enough to make them believe he had a future in the defense. Something, Pettine said, he did not expect in last year’s training camp. This offseason, Adams showed enough for the Packers to move on without Daniels.
“Really,” Adams said, “it’s just letting my fundamentals catch up to where I was physically and athletically. Just learning the game. I feel like, to me, the big difference of college players to the NFL is just the knowledge of the game. If you know this and you see this, then you can play way faster than the guy on the other side.”
Adams also reported to camp in perhaps the best shape of his life.
A “naturally big guy,” Adams doesn’t need junk food to exceed 300 pounds. He said the scale could read 310, even 320 on the right diet. But he wanted to be quicker, more explosive.
So Adams went back to his hometown in central Georgia, near Macon, almost 90 minutes south of Atlanta and a stone’s throw from nowhere. He ran wind sprints, 10 sets of 200 reps. His trainer gave him 40 seconds to complete each sprint, no rest until the set was halfway finished.
For the last couple reps, Adams said, the allotted time was chopped to 36 seconds.
“I wouldn’t say we had a good time,” Adams said, “but we had a great turnout.”
Adams said he now weighs 298, 299 pounds, dropping under the 300 mark.
Left guard Lane Taylor, who reps against Adams in practice, said he can tell a difference from last year. Taylor called Adams a “deceptive” athlete, surprisingly quick for his size. “When you kind of look at him,” Taylor explained, “you don’t think he’s super athletic. But he’s pretty damn athletic.” Combined with better technique, Taylor thinks Adams can present problems inside.
“When you first get here,” Taylor said, “you’re kind of raw. Kind of doing whatever worked in college. Sometimes you get blasted doing that stuff. So you learn from your mistakes, and everything you (expletive) up, you fix and you get better.
“I think he’s playing more sound football. Before he’d get too high on double teams and get blown back and stuff. He’s playing low. He knows how to slip blocks, and he’s always been a shifty, quick guy. He’s always been able to utilize that to create some pass rush.”
The improvement can’t stop here. The Packers need Adams to make a big jump this season. There’s a long way to go until Week 1, enough time to backslide. But Adams has come a long, long way.
Pettine is pleased with how his young defensive lineman accepted the challenge, proving him wrong.
“He’s a guy we’re going to depend on,” Pettine said.