Banjo ready to prove himself all over again
Chris Banjo knows there are no guarantees in his line of work.
When the former SMU standout signed his one-year deal with the Green Bay Packers on the third day of training camp last July, it didn't seem like he stood a chance at making the team's opening 53-man roster. After all, he was three months behind every safety he was competing against.
It didn't matter. With Sean Richardson starting the season on the physically unable to perform list, the 5-foot-10 Banjo managed the unthinkable and carved out a roster spot for himself behind Morgan Burnett, M.D. Jennings and Jerron McMillian.
There were some ups-and-downs, but Banjo played in all 16 regular-season games and even started one game. He was second on the Packers with 10 special-teams tackles and earned another one-year minimum deal soon after the season ended.
The first-round selection of Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and shifting Micah Hyde to safety has created a lot more competition for Banjo this season, but the 24-year-old is keeping the same approach.
Last season was fun, but he's still not assured of anything. Again, he must work for it. At least this time he's had the benefit of spending a full offseason with the team.
"A guy in my situation, an opportunity is all you can ask for," said Banjo, who was one of three undrafted rookies to make the Packers' initial roster. "I was just really grateful for that. It just reminded me that it doesn't mean anything. I still have to continue to work like I always have and take it from there."
Turnovers were a problem for the secondary last season. Not a single Packers' safety recorded a pick in 17 meaningful games last season, so they sent both Jennings and McMillian packing. In 2014, the defense seeks improvement at all levels.
Banjo spent a lot of his offseason back home in Texas. He hasn't made any drastic changes to his workout routine, but instead focused on what got him the opportunity with the Packers in the first place.
The hybrid nature of the Packers' defense leaves some questions about how many players the organization will keep at specific positions, but that's not Banjo's concern at the moment.
In a room featuring four safeties taller than 6-1, Banjo knows he needs to make up for his lack of measurables with determination. He proved himself in a span of a month last year.
Later this month, he's ready to do it again.
"He's tough. You can never have enough tough guys," Packers safeties coach Darren Perry said. "Again, people will talk about his limitations in terms of his height but one thing you can't measure is a guy's heart. Chris is smart. He goes out there and plays with tremendous effort and that always gives you a chance."
-firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @WesHod.