GREEN BAY —LaDarius Gunter takes his work seriously.
That much has been apparent to anyone who has known the Packers’ cornerback since the day he walked into Lambeau Field as an undrafted free agent in 2015.
Gunter doesn’t speak in hyperbole or use highfalutin language to get his point across. He simply works and lets his actions on the field tell the story.
“‘Gunt’ is a man of few words, but when he talks it’s significant,” defensive back Micah Hyde said.
Like Hyde, Gunter has been an ace up the Packers’ sleeve through the first month of the season due to a rash of injuries in the secondary.
The 6-foot-2, 201-pound cornerback, who saw only eight regular-season snaps on defense as a rookie, has played in 154 of a possible 182 plays in three starts in place of an injured Sam Shields.
Perhaps his tallest task came Sunday night against the New York Giants when Gunter found himself lined up across from All-Pro receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
After finding out before the game that Damarious Randall (groin) wouldn’t play, the Packers didn’t do anything radical to compensate for the loss of their top two cornerbacks.
Instead, they kept Quinten Rollins stationed on the left side, Gunter at the right boundary spot and Hyde manning the star cornerback spot in the slot of the nickel and dime sub-packages.
The three held their own against New York’s dangerous trio of speedsters in Beckham, Victor Cruz and Sterling Shepard, who combined for eight catches for 66 yards and a touchdown.
Beckham, who has registered touchdown receptions of 80-plus yards in each of his first two NFL seasons, didn’t have a gain of more than 16 yards.
The coaches felt the defense’s ability to not only survive Shields’ absence, but also weather Randall’s late scratch was a testament to Gunter’s preparation and performance.
“I thought he had a good night,” defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. “The thing you like about LaDarius is he’s a pro. He doesn’t say a whole lot. He comes in and goes to work, but you can tell he’s really into it. He’ll ask really good questions. If there’s something he’s unsure of, he’s going to ask. He’s a mature young man.”
Although Gunter was only active in eight regular-season games as a rookie, the Packers got an idea of what he could do during their wild-card playoff game in Washington.
Gunter was inserted during the third quarter to cover Pierre Garcon after Rollins left with a quad injury. The rookie held the veteran receiver in check and also recorded a crucial pass deflection on a third down in the fourth quarter.
Gunter’s performance this year – 12 tackles, one pass breakup and one forced fumble – hasn’t surprised anyone in the Packers’ locker room.
“Good football player,” McCarthy said. “You look what LaDarius has done in his time here. He’s grinded away and keeps getting better with every opportunity. He’s a really good student of the game, plays to his strengths.
“He really pays attention and exercises the details of the techniques needed for each particular coverage and call. I thought he exercised that very well (Sunday) night. I think he’s off to a good start.”
In Gunter’s mind, it all comes down to opportunity. Yes, it was his goal to make the roster as an undrafted rookie, but that wasn’t the only thing he set out to accomplish in Green Bay.
When Shields went down, Gunter knew it was up to him to show that he was up to the challenge despite pre-draft questions about his speed, which continue to motivate him each day.
Capers praised Gunter for being the Packers’ best cover cornerback two weeks ago against the Lions and was pleased with how he followed up on that performance Sunday.
“He knew the game plan,” Capers said. “I think he’s confident in his ability and he went out and executed the game plan and played with good technique, and did a nice job.”
Assuming Shields and Randall return in a timely fashion, Gunter doesn’t know what the future holds. The only thing he cares about is showing the coaches that he’s capable.
“Honestly I prepare every game like I’m a starter,” Gunter said. “I think coaches know I can play ball. I’m here if they need me.”