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Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Nick Perry didn't know at first if offseason surgery would be needed to mend the lingering shoulder injury he dealt with for most of the 2014 season.

His body eventually made the decision for him.

"I felt like give things a little break," said Perry following Saturday's padded practice at Ray Nitschke Field. "Sometimes rest helps, but when you can't pick up your arm…"

Perry had the surgery and missed the Packers' entire offseason program. It was frustratingly familiar to last summer when a foot injury forced him to start training camp on the physically unable to perform list.

While this spring was lost, the former first-round pick was able to pass his pre-camp physical and returned to the field in time for training camp. Three practices in, Perry has been lining up opposite Julius Peppers in the starting defense with Clay Matthews working extensively at inside linebacker.

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Perry played in 17 games last season (including playoffs), but suffered in silence through most of it. He first injured the shoulder on special teams early in the season, though his name didn't show up on the injury report until the week leading up to a Week 12 game in Minnesota.

Perry didn't play against the Vikings, but returned a week later. He was limited in practice the next few weeks before dropping off the report leading up to the regular-season finale against Detroit.

"Everyone saw I was preparing for the next game," said Perry when asked if teammates knew the pain he was playing with. "That was really the biggest thing just making sure I was good to go for the next game and just pushing through everything. I don't know. Everybody looked at it as he was getting prepared. That's what it was."

This is a big year for Perry, who has 68 tackles and nine sacks in his first three NFL seasons. He'll be an unrestricted free agent next offseason after the Packers declined the fifth-year option on his rookie contract.

With Matthews getting a lot of looks inside, it opens up a significant opportunity for outside pass-rushers. He's flashed when healthy, but has missed 16 regular-season games in his first two seasons.

Perry doesn't know if he'll wear a harness on the surgically repaired shoulder this season, but is keeping it on as a precautionary measure in training camp. Back in pads, Perry is working to get back into a rhythm.

"Being that it was the first day of pads, I wanted to stick it in there just to see if I still got it," Perry said. "The main thing is staying off the ground, making sure I don't do anything foolish being it's the third day. We still have a lot of football left and just being smart is the best approach right now."

-- whodkiew@pressgazettemedia.com and follow him on Twitter @WesHod.

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