GREEN BAY — While all his new teammates were fast asleep, Christine Michael was busy boarding a red-eye flight out of Seattle on Wednesday night.
Only a few hours earlier, the fourth-year running back was informed the Packers had claimed him off waivers from the Seahawks, leading to an 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time flight bound for the Midwest.
When Michael arrived at Lambeau Field, he found a playbook already waiting for him in his locker adjacent to that of Eddie Lacy, with whom he reconnected Wednesday after first meeting him at the NFL rookie symposium three years ago.
Finally, roughly two hours after touching down in Green Bay, Michael put on his pads and joined the rest of his new team on the practice field to complete a whirlwind 24 hours.
“The flight was the least of my worries,” Michael said. “I was just ready to get up here as soon as possible, grab that playbook, get going, treat my body up well, and call this place home. Call this new place home and go with it.”
From Michael’s perspective, Green Bay represents an exciting new chapter for the former second-round pick, who was taken one spot after the Packers drafted Lacy in 2013.
Michael (5-10, 221) has taken a number of twists and turns during his young NFL career, including two stints with the Seahawks and a stop with the Dallas Cowboys last season.
There also was a brief stay on Washington’s practice squad after he was released by Dallas last November. A month later, the Seahawks gave him a second chance and re-signed him to the 53-man roster.
Michael saw that moment as a turning point in his career.
“When the Seahawks brought me back, I put a lot into making sure I’m doing everything right, being on time, being a good team player,” Michael said. “Some things just don’t work out. I just have to regroup and start back over from scratch here with the Packers, and just build good days and learn from everything I went through in the past and try to help become a better person, a better teammate and a better player.”
He enjoyed the most playing time of his career in nine games (seven starts) with Seattle this season, carrying the ball 117 times for 469 yards and six touchdowns before being exposed to waivers on Tuesday.
Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy said General Manager Ted Thompson approached him near the end of Wednesday’s practice about the possibility of claiming Michael, a prospect that excited both him and running backs coach Ben Sirmans.
Sirmans, in his first year with the Packers, visited with Michael at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine when he served as the St. Louis Rams’ running backs coach.
A lot of the attributes that stood out then are still evident when he watches the 26-year-old running back’s film today.
“I was really impressed. He’s really quick,” Sirmans said. “He has good, sudden movement. He seems to have good vision. He runs with a natural body lean, which gives him a better chance to get in and out of seams, and break tackles.”
Sirmans pointed out one play on Thursday in a half-line drill where Michael was hit, but managed to stay low, get his hand on the ground and maintain his balance to keep the run alive.
With seven games left in the regular season, it’ll be crucial for Sirmans and the Packers to get Michael up to speed with the offense. The position coach, a teacher by trade, already said he’s prepared to pull a few all-nighters.
In his first day in Green Bay, Michael said he’s already seen some carryover from Seattle when it comes to offensive terminology, particularly in pass protection. There’s also concepts he recalls from his time at Texas A&M.
Several teammates, including receiver Randall Cobb and linebacker Blake Martinez, made the rounds during practice to welcome Michael to the team. The new running back also added that he met briefly with quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
“I’ve watched football all my life. I kept up with Aaron Rodgers. I kept up with the Green Bay Packers,” Michael said. “This is a great organization, a great team. I can tell already walking in the doors a championship mindset. Guys take things serious.”
Michael’s addition comes at a good time for the Packers’ offense, which is looking to re-establish the running game behind returning veteran James Starks.
The only natural tailback other than Starks on the active roster, rookie Don Jackson, sustained a knee injury during practice on Wednesday that landed him on injured reserve.
Michael was visibly energized by his new home and opportunity when he met with the Green Bay media on Wednesday. In the meantime, Michael says he’s ready to contribute in any way possible.
“Ask more questions, get myself more involved, take my job more seriously – that’s what I’ve been doing this time around, especially going into this 2016 season,” he said. “Just being an all-out professional, taking my job seriously and trying to be the best me possible.”
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