GREEN BAY – Lance Kendricks made sure to enjoy a few luxuries of home before returning to work last week.
The former Badgers and current Packers tight end spent some time in his hometown of Milwaukee before training camp, even taking in a few Brewers games in the process.
On the field, the transition has been seamless for Kendricks, who has fit right in with fellow tight ends Martellus Bennett and Richard Rodgers through his first week of camp.
Prior to the reunion with his childhood team, Kendricks spent the previous six years with the St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams, keeping tabs on the Packers’ offense from afar.
Flying back from road games, the 6-foot-3, 250-pound tight end occasionally would tune in to see what was going on with the Packers and quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
The production was difficult to miss.
“Every receiver’s dream is to catch passes from a quarterback (like Rodgers) who knows the system, and for me, it works out great,” Kendricks said. “I’m coming into a system that’s already established, and it’s on me to pick it up and learn it. I’m definitely grateful to be here.”
Kendricks had even greater incentive to track the Packers’ progress last season after former Rams teammate Jared Cook signed with Green Bay in free agency.
Nine months later, Cook snapped his seven-year playoff drought when he helped lift the Packers to their eighth consecutive postseason appearance with 24 catches for 324 yards over the team’s last seven games of the regular season.
Back in L.A., Kendricks put together a career year with 50 catches for 499 yards and two touchdowns in 16 games. For the sixth time in his career, however, Kendricks’ season would go no further than Week 17.
A few months later, Kendricks landed on the free-agent market for the first time in his career, and when the Packers came calling, he remembered what the experience appeared to do for Cook.
“I don’t know if it’s confidence, but he was more uplifted,” said Kendricks of Cook. “I could tell he was more – there was more of a passion last year than the year before. I could tell it definitely affected him, being with a team like this.”
A day after the Packers signed Bennett, Kendricks signed his deal to return to Green Bay. So far, the coaches like the trio forming at tight end with Bennett, Kendricks and Rodgers, whose rapport with Aaron Rodgers has benefited the entire room.
Meanwhile, Head Coach Mike McCarthy has praised the fresh outside perspective Bennett and Kendricks have brought to the locker room. With more than 200 NFL starts among them, the two new additions and Rodgers each bring something unique to the table.
A former second-round pick, Kendricks’ versatile skill set has been on display through the first seven practices. Since the beginning, the 6-foot-3, 250-pound tight end’s greatest strength has been his ability to line up inside, outside and even H-back.
“I love Lance; I’ve always loved him, watching his tapes and watching him grow up in the league,” Bennett said. “I’ve always been a big fan of guys who can do multiple things.
“You know, he can be in the backfield. He can be out wide. He can be in the slot. He can be at the tight end spot, he can be off the ball. I think his ability to move and be a utility guy is what makes him special.”
Bennett tends to draw most of the attention in the locker room as a former Pro Bowler and reigning Super Bowl champion, but Kendricks doesn’t mind flying under the radar a couple lockers down.
Behind the scenes, his personality gradually has come out in meetings with his new teammates and coaches.
“I’m just a little more low-key, that’s all,” said Kendricks with a smile. “Marty, he just stands out a little more. But I have my jokes. I have a joke or two.”
Now about to partake in his first Family Night practice inside Lambeau Field, Kendricks is excited about the opportunity in front of him.
The postseason aspirations have always been there since Kendricks first entered the league in 2011. Now, he feels he’s found the right team to help him take that next step right back where it all began in Wisconsin.
“This is a fresh start and a good opportunity to go out there and win some games, possibly going to the playoffs and further,” Kendricks. “For me, I haven’t been further than the regular season. So I’m looking forward to extending the regular-season part of it.”