Three inglorious years as a special teams maven and one season dedicated nearly exclusively to recovery from major injury have arrived at a moment in the glow of the Super Bowl limelight and redemption in the form of a contract that provides Peprah with a future some thought had gone dark.
“It’s been an up-and-down ride. It’s definitely been a little bit of a journey. Everything worked out in my favor,” Peprah told packers.com on Saturday, a day after it had been announced by the Packers that they had signed Peprah to a new contract.
The news of Peprah’s contract was not of leaguewide significance, but for Peprah it is the culmination of a lifetime of dreams and a tortured year of wondering if he would ever get back to where he was, which is to say on two healthy knees and on the roster, again, of the Green Bay Packers.
“Since I was brought in (waiver claim in 2006), there’s always been something special about the organization. That’s why I wanted to stay around. I want to win a couple of more,” Peprah said of the Packers and their Super Bowl XLV triumph.
It was the game of his life. He was a starter at safety against the Steelers, in the game of games and in his hometown.
Eighteen months earlier, he had been released by the Packers following a training camp knee injury. It was one of those fluke noncontact things; he tore his patella tendon just coming to a stop.
“It just took a long time; had to let it heal,” Peprah said.
He was signed by the Falcons at midseason and played in a couple of games, but the ’09 season was dedicated to recovery. The following spring, he signed back with the Packers, but he knew the competition to make it onto the final roster would be stiff because the Packers had just made safety Morgan Burnett a third-round draft pick.
“I just knew if given the opportunity I could make it. If I just had an opportunity I wasn’t worried about making the team,” Peprah said as he looked back on, as he calls it, his journey.
“If I got healthy, I felt my career could get back on track. That’s how I looked at it.”
By the end of training camp, Peprah’s career was back on track. When safety Will Blackmon was released, Peprah knew he was back on the radar.
“Coach (Mike McCarthy) came to me and said I’d be the third safety because I had earned it. Whenever I have my opportunity, I take advantage of it,” Peprah said.
A month into the season, Burnett went on injured reserve and Peprah became an even more important player in the Packers’ run to the postseason. He started 11 games, made 64 tackles and intercepted a couple of passes; they are all career highs.
Then came “Super Sunday” in Dallas and the guy from just down the road in Fort Worth was in the starting lineup. Peprah’s journey was nearly complete.
“You dream about it when you’re a kid, and then when you get there and being that it was in my hometown … I tried not to let the hype creep into the game. I want to go do it again. That’s why I signed back,” Peprah said.
He led the Packers in tackles against the Steelers.
“It wasn’t my best game but I led the team in tackles,” he said with a lilt in his voice.
So, now what?
“Come in and compete for the starting job. It’s a chance to win another Super Bowl if not two more,” he said.
Why stop there?
Vic Ketchman is a veteran of 39 NFL seasons and has covered the Steelers and Jaguars prior to coming to Green Bay.