Peppers brings new attitude to defense

Weston Hodkiewicz
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Mike Daniels admits he has a mean streak when he's on the field.

Green Bay Packers' Julius Peppers shares a smile as he stretches with his teammates during training camp practice at Ray Nitschke Field.

That doesn't mean, however, the Green Bay Packers' second-year defensive lineman wants to get on Julius Peppers' bad side.

While the mild-mannered veteran doesn't say much inside the locker room, his teammates see the transformation whenever Peppers is on the football field.

When that happens, stay out of the way.

"He doesn't utter a word all day but, when you're on the field, he turns into a raging psychopath," said Daniels, who's entering his third NFL season.

"I don't want him yelling at me for not doing my job the right way. Those are the kind of guys we need out there: Guys that are going to keep each other accountable, going to stay on top of each other and make sure we get the job done."

The Packers hope Peppers' on-field disposition channels through the defense looking to bounce back from ranking 25th in total yards last season. It triggered sweeping changes from the trenches to the back end.

Daniels, a Blackwood, N.J., native, watched Super Bowl XLVIII closely. He saw how Seattle's top-ranked defense shut down the Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos' high-powered offense in a 44-8 thrashing.

The Packers' lighter defensive front of Daniels, (6-0, 305), Letroy Guion (6-4, 315) and Datone Jones (6-4, 285) is smaller than last year's front of Ryan Pickett (6-3, 335), B.J. Raji (6-2, 337) and Johnny Jolly (6-3, 328), but Packers coach Mike McCarthy feels they're still enough there to hold up against the run.

However, one advantage they should have is an oversized linebacker in the 6-foot-7, 290-pound Peppers rushing from the outside.

"If you're anything associated with an NFL defense and you watched the Super Bowl and didn't take notes, you probably don't belong here, because they showed how you get it done," Daniels said.

"They didn't do anything special. There was no crazy this or that. They rushed four, they blitzed every now and then, and then their defensive backfield was there to intimidate and the linebackers were there to fill gaps and make plays. ... Every tackle was like a celebration."

The Seahawks' defense will be the priority for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers' offense to handle in Thursday's opener at CenturyLink Field. Meanwhile, it's Daniels' task to worry about Seattle's offense.

It's a difficult matchup for most teams with running back Marshawn Lynch pounding the ball between the tackles and quarterback Russell Wilson's ability to make something happens when a play breaks down.

Lynch has rushed for more than 1,200 yards and at least 11 touchdowns in each of his three full seasons in Seattle. It's the Packers' remade defensive line's charge to stop him, while Peppers and outside linebacker Clay Matthews attempt to keep Wilson uncomfortable.

"I do know this, he is a dangerous football player," said Daniels of Wilson. "He has a dangerous running back and he has a pretty good offensive line and he's got guys that'll catch the ball. If we don't come out and play our best game, it will be ugly for us."

Daniels garnered headlines during the offseason for saying he wants the defense to be meaner and more eager to punch players in the month. He cleared up some of that talk Tuesday by emphasizing the word "figuratively" in a loud and clear voice.

With Peppers involved, however, Daniels can sense a different mindset in this year's defense.

"We won't be afraid to throw the first punch. Figuratively, not literally," Daniels said. "We will be attacking. Figuratively. We'll be really getting after it, within the rules, the way we're supposed to, instead of waiting on our heels, waiting to see what they're going to do. 'Oh, my goodness, they're doing this. Now we can't do that.' No, we're going to do what we do and that's play football." and follow him on Twitter @WesHod.

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