Peprah speaks for his defense
GREEN BAY Asked about his approach to replacing injured safety Nick Collins for the Green Bay Packers, Charlie Peprah sounds like he’s running for political office.
Peprah is confident he can step in without a dropoff on defense, and wants to put Packers fans’ minds at ease.
“I think that’s the thing you’ve got to know: I’m not going to go out there and make things look the way Nick made it look,” Peprah said Wednesday. “But I’m going to get the job done, and I’m going to do it right, and I’m going to make plays. So that’s just the mindset, go in and pick up where he left off. Keep the train moving.”
With Collins out for the season because of a neck injury from Sunday’s victory at Carolina, Peprah once again is the Packers’ backup plan. That’s what he did last year, when rookie Morgan Burnett tore his left ACL in the fourth game of the season and Peprah made the job his for the remainder of the season.
Peprah appreciates the confidence of his coaches, even if he isn’t thrilled about the circumstances.
“First of all, it’s more than us losing a free safety,” Peprah said. “We lost a Pro Bowler, we lost a leader, and more importantly we lost a friend. I think when something like this happens, it’s kind of bigger than football. I think a lot of that was kind of going around the locker room, the emotions, the uncertainty of what lies ahead with Nick. Our prayers go out to him and his family. There was a lot of rumors going out there, but nobody knows what’s going on exactly. But everybody’s kind of getting over the down, the lull of him being out. So it’s a little emotional.”
Peprah might not have Collins’ skill set and knack for big plays, but he’s rarely out of position.
“Charlie Peprah played over 900 snaps for us last year,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “He’ll be ready to go. We consider him a starter. We don’t ever feel that we just have 11 starters on offense, defense or special teams. So we have all the confidence in the world in Charlie.”
Still, stepping in for Collins—a leader on defense and special teams, with significant responsibility making defensive calls on the field—will be more of a challenge than stepping in for Burnett last year.
“They’re different people,” McCarthy said. “They have different types of games. It’s our responsibility to make sure we put Charlie in a role to be successful.”
Peprah said he’s not trying to replace anybody.
“I’m not Nick Collins,” Peprah said. “So I’m not going to try and go out there and be Nick. I’m going to try to do what I’ve always done. I’m just going to be me, and contribute as best I can.”
With the Packers beset by injuries to key players last year, Peprah became an unlikely standout during last year’s Super Bowl run.
He originally came to the Packers in 2006, claimed off waivers from the New York Giants. He didn’t play much in his first three Packers seasons, then was waived in September 2009 after a knee injury. He ended up in Atlanta, where he played sparingly.
He returned to the Packers last season, but wasn’t sure he had the full confidence of his teammates or coaches—especially when the team traded for another safety, Anthony Smith.
“I was uncertain how everybody else was going to look toward me, the confidence level they would have in me,” Peprah said. “But as far as the way I prepared, I always felt confident, because I prepared like I was going to play and things like that. I just wasn’t sure how everybody else was going to believe in me. The team went and traded for Anthony Smith early on, so I just had to show them, ‘Look, I’ve got this. You guys can have confidence in me.’ And I did that.”
Peprah then faced another choice after winning the Super Bowl: Re-sign with the Packers, or listen to potential offers from other teams.
Burnett was coming back healthy and Peprah knew he might end up back on the bench. He still chose to stay, believing Green Bay was the best place for him to win another title—regardless of his own role.
“I thought we had a great chance to win another one, and I wanted to be a part of that,” Peprah said. “That was the thought process behind it. We have a great chance to have another great season. And I felt like my time here wasn’t done yet, I wanted to come back and contribute to that. Hopefully we can get it done.”