Letroy Guion ready to fill in for B.J. Raji
GREEN BAY—Training camp in 2014 has featured a few guarantees.
Mike McCarthy will say the Green Bay Packers “hit their targets,” the latest coachspeak buzz phrase. The TV timeout music selections will range from awful to excellent.
And Letroy Guion—the team’s free-agent signing—will not be participating. Since Day 1, the veteran nose tackle has been sidelined with a hamstring injury.
Now with B.J. Raji (biceps) out for the season, the Packers could use Guion.
He knows you haven’t seen him play a down yet. He also is certain he’s ready.
“I’m very confident in myself,” Guion said. “I know how to play nose tackle. I’m going to shock everybody when I get there. Nobody’s seen nothing yet. That can be a good or a bad thing, but I’m going to make it a good thing.”
Plan A at nose tackle post-Raji is apparently Josh Boyd. But it’d be no surprise if Plan B, Guion, took effect at some point. He’s the veteran alternative.
Guion made it clear he feels ready to go and has been for about 1½ weeks. He suffered the hamstring injury prior to training camp while working out and admitted he may not have stretched properly. The 6-foot-4, 315-pounder brings six years of experience in Minnesota’s attacking-style 4-3 scheme.
In 13 games last season, Guion finished with 23 tackles (11 solo) and a sack. The year prior, he had 49 tackles (21 solo) and two sacks. If Boyd is overwhelmed, Guion could get the call. Guion has played more games than the other seven healthy defensive linemen combined. So far, he hasn’t been given any indication by the Packers that he’d start the season on the physically unable to perform list.
Asked Sunday just how tough it’d be for the Packers to replace Raji, Guion was blunt.
“I don’t know yet. We’ll see when we get out there,” he said. “I don’t know about ‘tough’ to replace him. I’m a good player myself. I know how to play defense. I know how to play D-line real good. So I’m going to get back out there and do my job.”
The Packers’ coaches were impressed with Guion’s motor through organized team activities and minicamp, but have yet to see him in pads. They did see him as a Viking, alongside the likes of Kevin Williams and Jared Allen. Last season, Guion had five tackles against the Packers, spinning off a blocker to sack Aaron Rodgers.
Whereas Boyd and undrafted Mike Pennel are still maturing to certain degrees, Guion has played 68 games for three different NFL assistant coaches in Karl Dunbar, Brendan Daly and Diron Reynolds in the Vikings’ aggressive scheme.
The Packers’ 3-4 is more of a “flat” scheme, but Guion believes his “attack-and-react” style will translate to nose tackle.
“Definitely unfazed,” Guion said. “I’m very comfortable at my position and what I do down there. I know how to play football. I know how to play D-Line. So I have no nerves when it comes to getting thrown into the game to be held up to my expectations. I’m ready.
“I’m waiting for the go-ahead. When they release me, I’ll go out there and show what I got.”
Whenever Guion does return, he admits there will be a period of time needed to take on blocks, “get the movement back” and shake off rust.
“But I’m a football player,” he said. “I’ll get acclimated and get back in there.”
So it’d be no surprise if his wait ended sooner rather than later.
On Sunday, coach Mike McCarthy made a point to gauge Guion’s progress inside the Don Hutson Center. McCarthy indicated Guion is “getting close” and that this is “a process.” Guion says he’s able to sprint, cut, open up, all at 100 percent.
One of the Packers’ key additions, a vet signed for this precise emergency, has been collecting dust all August. With Raji done for the season, experience would now be welcomed.
And, yes, he plans to “shock” people.
“Because I play good down there,” Guion said. “I play good and strong and quick. I can do some things other guys can’t do.”