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Up-front tonnage: Packers have beef in line

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Lori Nickel
January 20, 2011
— Weight stories are tough. They’re just so personal. No one wants to talk about what they’re draggin’ in their wagon. Those weights listed on the Packers roster for some guys are probably about as accurate as what we put on our driver’s licenses.

But get a load of Green Bay’s defensive line:


Left end Ryan Pickett, 340 pounds.


Nose tackle B.J. Raji, 337 pounds.


Right end Howard Green, 340 pounds.


That’s 1,017 pounds up front—the largest 3-4 defensive line in the NFL.


Pickett thought that was possible last week, but when told Wednesday that the numbers had been crunched, and confirmed, he pumped his fist.


“Yes!” he mouthed.


Then he was asked whether he really was 340-pounds, as he is listed on the roster.


“Yeah. … Some days!” he said with a roar of laughter.


The truth is, Green Bay’s defensive line takes a little bit of pride in the fact that they’re the biggest—and baddest. It’s their rare combination of size, strength and speed that makes them stand out.


“There are few guys in the league who have the size and ability to take on double teams, hold the position and hold your ground and not get knocked off the ball,” Green said. “And that’s really what it’s all about.”


All of the linemen, including Cullen Jenkins, Jarius Wynn and C.J. Wilson, bring their own strengths to the table.


Green and Pickett are the brute strength guys. When Green came out of Louisiana State six years ago, he could bench press 495, he said.


But Raji is explosive and quick, with the bottom half of his body even stronger than his top.


“J.W. also has great upper-body strength,” Raji said. “Other guys are more lower-body strength. Cullen is more of a quick-twitch guy, so he’s not lifting as much weight in the weight room but doing a lot of fast reps just to get his muscles going.”


The key to their size and great weight is balancing it with the necessary athleticism to play in the NFL.


“You want to keep your weight in an area where you can play and be physical and still keep your strength,” Green said. “And not be out there just wobbling around.”


Of all the three linemen, four-linebacker base defenses in the NFL, the Packers are heaviest—even if Jenkins resumed his starting spot for Green at right defensive end.


The other bulkiest 3-4 defenses in the NFL: Denver, with Jamal Williams at nose at 348, for a combined total of 979 pounds up front; New England (960), Baltimore (957) and Buffalo (951).


Some of the biggest men in the league: Miami’s Paul Soliai (355) and Oakland’s Kellen Heard (355).


But collectively they stand in Green Bay’s shadow.


“I mean, we make Cullen Jenkins look small,” Pickett said. “And Jenkins is really big. He’s over 310 pounds.” (The right defensive end is listed at 305 on the roster. See?)


The linemen say the best advantage for all that size up front is when the Packers stay in their base defense and defend the run. Green Bay allowed six rushing touchdowns in the regular season, No. 3 in the NFL. Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson and Atlanta’s Michael Turner are the only backs to have 100-yard rushing games against Green Bay since Week 3 of 2009. In the playoff game Sunday, however, Turner was held to 39 rushing yards.


“Opposing guys are probably not going to run through us. They’re going to have to run around us, and that’s how teams have been attacking us with the run game,” Pickett said. “They try to get it to the outside. It’s tough making a living running inside the tackles against us.”


But with all that weight comes the dreaded, detested weekly weigh-in.


“I hate it. They should take that out of football,” Pickett said. “It’s just wrong.”


Pickett said if he’s not within a certain designated range, “they fine you. It’s wrong. They’d fine us every week. If you don’t make it, they fine you for every pound, every week.”


These guys eat better than you might think, too. It’s not clear exactly what there is in being 338 pounds if you can’t eat what you want.


“If we had what we wanted, we’d be like 438,” Pickett said.


Green doesn’t touch soda. He maintains his weight with high-protein meals, like a lot of steak.


“That helps your energy level during the game, eating right during the week,” Green said. “Being a bigger guy, you want to eat healthy as long as you can because it prolongs your career, prolongs your life.”


Pickett sneaks in a soda—the guilty look gave it away—but a typical dinner is a lot of fish, a potato and vegetables.


“We’re a little different than the rest as D-linemen, so we still have fun,” Pickett said. “But I can’t go to McDonald’s. We eat healthy. Maybe once a week, twice a week we treat ourselves, but it’s not like we can pig out.


“I would love to eat it, but I can’t. We stay away from the fried foods. We have this thing where we buy wings every week—that’s when we have our fried food.”


Pickett thinks it is about time to come up with a name for this group. The “Wall,” something …


“Yeah, but something a little more catchy than that,” Pickett said. “ ‘The Fat Boys,’ ‘The Big Boys.’ I’ll come up with something.”



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