GREEN BAY—There was perhaps no hungrier player on the Packers defense than Desmond Bishop for the three years he toiled as a backup linebacker and special-teamer.
After sitting out the entire 2012 season with a torn hamstring and then watching the Packers defense get shredded for 323 rushing yards in the playoff loss at San Francisco, Bishop’s hunger has returned to the level of his career’s early days, if not grown.
“There’s really no words that can describe it,” he said. “I think you’re just going to have to watch.”
A starting inside linebacker for the Packers’ 2010 Super Bowl run and subsequent 2011 season, Bishop’s 2012 campaign was over before it really started.
He tore his hamstring in the preseason opener in San Diego, a severe injury that required surgery and landed him on injured reserve. He has spent the past five months rehabbing and calls himself “somewhere between 60 and 80 percent” right now.
Bishop believes he’ll be full-go with no restrictions for OTAs and training camp this spring and summer. That remains to be seen, considering Mike McCarthy’s tendency to ease players back into the on-field drills when they’re coming off a major injury, but nonetheless, Bishop feels good about where he is on the road to recovery.
“Definitely on track for sure,” he said.
The Packers surely missed Bishop in the middle of the defense, particularly down the stretch in 2012 as Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson rushed for 409 yards in two regular-season games and then San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick ran wild in the playoffs.
That’s not to suggest replacement Brad Jones was a weak link in the defense, but amongst the inside linebackers, Bishop packs the biggest wallop and plays with a fire and intensity all his own.
Bishop wasn’t going to say he single-handedly could have prevented Kaepernick from gashing the Packers for a QB-record 181 yards rushing, but he would have liked to try. His explosive sack of Philadelphia’s Michael Vick on the very first snap of the 2010 NFC Wild Card game set the tone for a defense that had a memorable four-game postseason run.
“Of course, I believe I could have helped impact the team,” he said. “I always have thought that and always will.”
A 2007 draft choice out of Cal and a northern California native, Bishop will always regret missing the playoff clash at Candlestick Park. In his youth, he played there in Pop Warner at halftime of 49ers games.
His only other opportunity to play there as a pro came in the 2008 preseason, and he missed that due to injury, as well.
“Where I grew up, I could actually see Candlestick from my window,” he said. “I grew up a Niners fan. So it was really a homecoming. It would have definitely been fun to be out there.”
He sees quarterbacks like Kaepernick and Washington’s Robert Griffin III, as well as the read-option offense, as the latest league-wide challenges, and he can’t wait to get his chance against them all.
Bishop doesn’t believe the Packers need a complete overhaul on defense, but he spoke of needing a different “mindset” and better “discipline” and “technique” to stop the running QBs and the read-option.
The Packers are scheduled to face both quarterbacks next season, and when told the Packers would get their first look at Griffin – provided he’s healthy – in 2013, his eyes actually lit up.
It’s that hunger again.
“The league is always evolving,” Bishop said. “I think the new spread offense with a running quarterback is innovative and different, but defenses will evolve as well and figure out how to stop it, and then offenses are going to come up with something else. Just like a revolving door.”