GREEN BAY — While disappointed his surgically repaired right foot wasn’t ready for the first day of his rookie training camp with the Green Bay Packers, Vince Biegel struck a positive tone Thursday morning.
Part of that, of course, is the former University of Wisconsin standout’s normal disposition, something with which Badgers fans are familiar. But maybe a little been-there, done-that pep talk from one of the best pass-rushing outside linebackers in the NFL helped a bit, too.
Biegel, a fourth-round pick, missed two games last season because of the foot, which he initially injured during his senior season, leading to surgery. He reinjured the foot during the Packers’ post-draft rookie orientation camp in May and missed all of the team’s organized team activity practices and the June minicamp as a result.
Photos: Big men, little bikes – Packers return to Lambeau Field for training camp
The Green Bay Packers' morning practice session began with a training camp tradition. Players rode the bikes of kids from Lambeau Field for about a block down to the practice field.
Coach Mike McCarthy joked that the bike ride might be the hardest thing his players have to do all day. He says today will be the best their bodies will feel for the next seven months over the long football season.
The Packers will practice in the morning for about a week, then switch to an evening schedule in advance of the "Family Night" practice at Lambeau on Aug. 5.
Opening camp on the physically unable to perform list wasn’t a surprise, but the sideline was not where Biegel, an eager go-getter who will be counted on this season to bolster the team’s pass rush, wanted to be.
Nevertheless, Biegel said doctors have told him he is well ahead of schedule after staying in Green Bay all summer to train under the medical staff’s supervision.
“Everything is going very, very well. The foot feels great,” Biegel said. “I was able to go into (the Don Hutson Center) and cut on it, run on it. Just following the course of action, taking the time and listening to the trainers, listening to the doctors, doing what they tell me to do.”
Asked if he came back too soon from the injury last season — he was out three weeks and missed only two games — Biegel replied, “I’m not going to look back and say what I did or what I didn’t do. I would do the exact same thing all over again. It’s the game of football, injuries happen.”
Clay Matthews knows that all too well. He battled hamstring and shoulder injuries last season, and in 2009, he was a rookie first-round pick who, like Biegel, missed much of the offseason program and a significant part of training camp with a hamstring injury. He ended up with 10 sacks that season.
“You know, it’s kind of similar to my story. I missed quite a bit of OTAs my first year and I think camp my first year I missed some time as well. But ultimately, it’s just about staying in the playbook,” Matthews said. “I think the biggest thing is when he’s ready, when they clear him, is to be able to just jump in there seamlessly, which is easier said than done when you’re not getting reps. That was always the thing that helped me out is I knew the playbook so when they put me in there, there were what I like to believe were few mistakes.”
Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Biegel could miss the first “couple weeks” but that he is “doing great. He’s been here every day.”
Cornerback Demetri Goodson, who suffered a severe knee injury last season, also opened camp on the PUP list.
“We’re relatively healthy,” McCarthy said. “We feel good.”
But Biegel will feel a lot better once he’s in pads and back on the field.
“I think the biggest thing for me was being able to be patient through this process, and I’m not a naturally patient person,” said Biegel, adding that he thinks the foot injuries are a “freak thing” and not a chronic problem.
“To be able to sit back and watch my teammates has been hard for me, but it’s also given me perspective on this great game and kind of put another chip on my shoulder, if you will, moving forward. I’m very grateful. Everything happens for a reason, so I’m definitely going to make this a positive situation.”