GREEN BAY – Perhaps nobody on the Packers’ roster understands the agony and ecstasy of cut-down day better than Christian Ringo.
The young defensive tackle has been on both sides of the bubble. As a sixth-round pick in 2015, Ringo received the call no player wants to get during the final day of training camp.
After spending his entire rookie season on Green Bay’s practice squad, Ringo anxiously awaited his fate from the stands at Lambeau Field last year, watching Wisconsin play LSU.
The Badgers won and Ringo’s phone never rang. He made the roster and stayed there for the entire 2016 season, playing in nine games (including playoffs).
In a few days, Ringo and dozens of other young players on the Packers’ roster will wait out the longest weekend of the season in hopes of making Green Bay’s 53-man roster.
It’s a process that’s had a significant impact on the 6-foot-1, 298-pound defensive tackle standing in the Packers’ locker room today.
“Definitely the first year influenced how I am now,” Ringo said. “That was my foundation. When I got cut, that was the eye-opener for me, letting me know nothing is guaranteed. Every preseason game, I’m going into it like this is the last one that’s guaranteed. Nothing else is guaranteed after this unless I make the team.”
This has been an offseason of opportunity for Ringo. Although Ringo made the roster last year, depth on the defensive line caused him to play only 76 defensive snaps last season.
During Ringo’s exit interview with Head Coach Mike McCarthy after the season, the two talked about giving him more chances to prove himself during his third summer in Green Bay.
That’s certainly been the case in the Packers’ first three preseason games. Ringo has played 98 defensive snaps so far, a spike from the 69 he played in four preseason games last year.
“(McCarthy) said he was going to try his best to give me more opportunities and they stuck with it,” Ringo said. “These past three games, I’m getting the reps I was looking for, so I can’t complain about any of that. I just have to make the most of it.”
A solid competition has been brewing on the defensive line in camp with veterans Mike Daniels and Ricky Jean Francois, 2016 draft picks Kenny Clark and Dean Lowry, and returning reserves Brian Price and Ringo vying for playing time this preseason. The Packers also have rookie third-round pick Montravius Adams, though he’s missed most of camp due to a foot injury.
Ringo has made the most of his playing time. While he hasn’t recorded a sack this preseason, Ringo followed a pressure-packed performance against Washington two weeks ago with another solid outing in Saturday night’s 20-17 loss in Denver.
Together with Price, Ringo contributed to one of the best plays of the game when he stopped Broncos running back De’Angelo Henderson, leading to a fumble and recovery.
Ringo split his offseason working out at D1 Sports Training in his hometown of Jackson, Miss., and on the campus of his alma mater, Louisiana-Lafayette. He also spent some time in Green Bay.
While the rigorous training exercises – Ringo posted several to his Instagram account – prepared him for camp, there is nothing like actual football to prepare for a season. That’s why Ringo has treated every rep he’s taken this offseason as if it were his last.
“Anything in the offseason, it forges mental toughness at this point,” Ringo said. “We’ve been there. We’ve been in college. We squatted heavy. We lifted heavy. We did all that. It’s mainly just trying to stay in shape and attacking it. Nothing gets you in shape for football, but football.”
Ringo has gleaned precious information over the past two years from routinely taking scout-team reps against the Packers’ starting offensive line in practice. He’s also had an invaluable resource only a few lockers down in Daniels.
Ringo believes he’s a better football player today for it, but he knows that doesn’t guarantee anything this weekend. It’s up to him and the other young players vying for roster spots to state their case in the Packers’ preseason finale this Thursday against the Los Angeles Rams.
After feeling what it’s like to make the opening roster last year, Ringo is motivated to prove deserving of a spot once again.
“Once you get the taste of it, you want it over and over and over and over,” Ringo said. “You just want that feeling. There’s nothing like being out there and making plays.”
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