GREEN BAY – Last summer, Mike Daniels gave his agent a simple set of instructions.
“I don’t want anything to do with this,” Daniels said, referring to negotiations on a new contract. “I want to focus on the season. I want to be in Green Bay. Make sure I’m in Green Bay.”
It fell into place just as Daniels wished on Monday, when he signed a multi-year extension to remain with the Packers. He kept himself out of the on-and-off, back-and-forth nature of the talks and simply went about playing his best football in his fourth pro season.
A key cog in the Packers’ run defense and an effective interior pass rusher, Daniels is on pace to top his previous career high in tackles (69 in 2014). With four sacks through 13 games, his career mark (6½ in 2013) is within reach in that category, too.
Daniels was just three regular-season games from playing out his rookie contract and getting a chance to test the open market, but that wasn’t his priority. He mentioned playing with an annual contender, and with a quarterback like Aaron Rodgers who always keeps the team in the hunt, as factors that mattered to him.
“I want to win Super Bowls with this team,” he said. “This is like home to me. This is a great place to be. I don’t want to be anywhere else. I’ve heard a lot of horror stories, so I’m glad I’m here.”
Drafted in the fourth round out of Iowa in 2012, Daniels has always been a chip-on-the-shoulder player. Waiting until the third day of the draft to get selected didn’t sit well. He was knocked for being too short, at 6-feet even, to hold up in the NFL’s trenches.
A relentless worker and competitor, he’s now been rewarded with a salary that will pay him among the elite at his position, but he plans on being the same self-motivated player he’s always been. He spoke of proving the Packers “right” by bringing him to Green Bay, and he wants to prove this decision was right as well.
Daniels is not the first guy to say he’s never satisfied, but he’s one of the few who actually lives it.
“It’s not going to change. It’s just how I approach the game, it’s how I play,” he said. “The fact that I sign a contract doesn’t change the fact that I got overlooked in high school, doesn’t change the fact that I was consistently called short coming out in the draft, and I’m not strong and I can’t play the run and all this other stuff. It doesn’t change the fact that I had to grind to get where I’m at.
“Success is just a product of the work I do, and I’ll just keep on working.”
Other teammates on the defensive line, such as B.J. Raji and Letroy Guion, are in the final year of their current contracts, too. Daniels said “in a perfect world” he’d love to keep the group together, but the financial reality of the league may dictate changes at his position group in 2016.
He’s not going to worry about that now, though, just as he didn’t concern himself with the contract situation and insisted he wasn’t even thinking about it much when he signed it Monday morning.
“Dallas just ran for like 100-something yards, so that’s what I’m more focused on is making sure I get back to fixing what we need to fix for Oakland,” he said. “But yes, it’s great. I’ll celebrate and enjoy it after the season.
“We’ve got a game coming up.”