GREEN BAY—As smooth as Micah Hyde has made it look, he’ll freely admit there’s been nothing simple or easy about it.
But at least he’s keeping his sense of humor.
Having spent the entire offseason learning the safety position, Hyde was asked during last week’s minicamp what he considers himself now. A cornerback? A safety?
“I’m a utility player. If a D-lineman goes out, I’m going to take that position. I’ll try to put on a little bit of weight,” Hyde said, tongue firmly planted in cheek. “But no, I’m a defensive back. Whatever position is needed, I’m going to help out and do the best I can.”
Last year’s nickel and dime cornerback has earned praise from the coaches for the transition he made this spring. Some of the safety responsibilities involve sliding down into the slot, much like the nickel and dime, which is old hat to Hyde. Other duties involve playing deep centerfield, which is all new.
Whether having Hyde work during OTAs alongside Morgan Burnett with the No. 1 defense means he’s in line to start there in 2014, or if that was just the fastest way to get him up to speed at the new position, training camp will tell. First-round draft pick Ha Ha Clinton-Dix will be battling to crack the starting lineup, too.
Either way, Hyde’s increased flexibility falls in line with the defense’s objective of utilizing more personnel combinations this season. In that respect, reading and reacting from different perspectives on the field was invaluable work for Hyde during the past month.
“It’s one thing to see it on film, but seeing it in person is making me learn fast, and I think the best thing for me is not making the same mistake twice,” he said. “I’m learning from every mistake and moving on.”
If Hyde was making a lot of mistakes out there, it wasn’t obvious in the practices open to reporters. Though he did admit his “head is spinning” at times with all of the new information, he looked like he belonged no matter where he lined up.
That speaks to Hyde’s general acumen for the game, which is why he has played well above his status as a fifth-round draft pick in 2013. Last year, in addition to playing a lot of slot corner, he took over punt-return duties by the second month of the season and then by year’s end was also returning kickoffs despite not having done it since high school.
This year, if he becomes an every-down player on defense, as Head Coach Mike McCarthy has suggested, the special-teams duties could diminish, with receiver Jared Abbrederis (punts) and running back DuJuan Harris (kickoffs) getting looks in the return game, among others.
Then, again, maybe Hyde just does it all. He wouldn’t mind. If he weren’t referred to by any position and were simply called a football player, he wouldn’t object.
“I take a lot of pride in that,” he said. “Since the first day I started playing football, I think people started saying that. Even when I was little, I’ve always just been a football player. I’ve never been the fastest, strongest, tallest. I was always just a football player, and I like it that way.”
What he likes more than anything is just being on the field, whether it’s at corner, safety, returner, whatever. His already extensive knowledge of the game was expanded even further this spring.
With that, whether his role on defense becomes clearly defined or not, more impact plays will be expected (he had zero interceptions, one forced fumble last year). He’s not a fifth-round rookie surprise anymore, but to himself he was never a surprise to begin with.
He was just a football player.
“I understand this will be the biggest year for me to come, and I’m ready for it,” Hyde said. “I’m out here learning every day, not making the same mistakes twice, and if that keeps happening, I feel I’ll be in good position come fall.”