Mike Daniels has watched enough practices.
He watched Senior Bowl practices online in January, the week he had surgery on his shoulder. He watched fellow draft prospects work out at the scouting combine, and he watched rookie orientation, OTA and minicamp practices after arriving in Green Bay.
Known as a blue-collar, high-motor, never-quit defensive lineman, the fourth-round draft pick out of Iowa is the first to say all this watching hasn’t been easy.
“It’s rough. If you tell a fish not to swim, it’s going to be kind of hard,” Daniels said. “Being a football player, it’s hard to sit around and watch everybody else out there getting better, practicing. So I have to find other ways to improve myself.”
Daniels hopes he did that by attending all the meetings and staying in his playbook while rehabbing his shoulder throughout the spring. There’s still no guarantee he’ll be medically cleared for the first day of training camp – “We’ll see what the doc says. It’s a work in progress,” he said – but that’s obviously what he’s hoping for.
It would be best for Daniels to be positively full strength when he does finally get to practice, because he sounds like a guy who is not going to hold back.
Having watched second-round pick Jerel Worthy, a fellow rookie and Big Ten defensive lineman, take a lot of snaps during the spring with the No. 1 nickel defense, Daniels already has a spot to shoot for. He was drafted to provide depth and competition along the defensive line, and to give a boost to a pass rush that was tagged as one of the key defensive shortcomings for Green Bay last season.
“Just seeing the speed that the guys brought to OTAs and minicamp, and being told that a lot of our veteran guys are just getting warmed up, not even, it really gives me an idea of how to … not hit the ground running, but hit the ground sprinting,” Daniels said.
As eager as Daniels is to hit the field again, he did manage to find a silver lining this past winter during his down time.
His son was born last August on the first day of summer camp at Iowa, so he didn’t get to spend much time with him early on with his football and school schedule. Once the season ended, though, Daniels had to rest and recuperate following surgery and made up for that lost family time.
“It was a long season, and I’m glad I was forced to stay in the house and spend time with my girlfriend and my son,” he said. “It was definitely a blessing. It helped reinforce the hunger I already have and helped it build up even more.
“I’m thankful for the partner I have. She really stepped up as a mother, and now I have to return that favor and make sure I set up a great future for us.”
That will start with making the final roster this summer, and joining the Packers’ other five defensive draft picks in helping a unit that plummeted in the league rankings a year ago.
Relegated to so much watching, he’ll begin a bit behind the other rookies. But perspective is everything, and Daniels is calling that a blessing, too.
“I love playing catch-up, because when you’re running, it’s easier to slow down when you’re in the front of the pack,” he said. “But when you’re in the back, there’s people you have to pass up, and you have to continue to work.
“I just want to give my all every day.”