GREEN BAY – The question never has been whether Nick Perry possesses the talent or ability to play in the NFL.
Since the Packers drafted Perry in 2012, the 6-foot-3, 265-pound linebacker has everything you look for in a quality pass-rusher – power, speed and explosion.
The only thing missing has been, well, Perry.
Each year, Perry has flashed brilliance before injury impeded his progress. He missed 17 games during his first two seasons and played through injury in a majority of the past two.
As much discomfort as he experienced last season with a nagging shoulder injury and busted hand, Perry’s health improved late in the year and the difference was obvious once the playoffs began.
With no recovery or rehab to preoccupy him, Perry was an active participant in the team’s organized team activities the past three weeks for the first time in his career.
“I’ve always felt like my injuries have limited me in some regard,” Perry said. “I’ve always known my capabilities when I’m healthy, and I think I’m in a good place to remain that way and take off to where I really need to be and where I’m really trying to go.”
Given the chance to test the free-agent waters this offseason, Perry preferred to finish what he started in Green Bay. He spent a majority of his offseason in Green Bay since he didn’t need to travel for surgery or rehab.
With his added work during the team’s downtime, Perry has sought to build upon his dominant playoff run in completing each phase of the offseason program.
Wiped off the injury report in time for the postseason, Perry had arguably the best game of his career against Washington All-Pro left tackle Trent Williams when he registered four tackles and 2½ sacks.
He accomplished the feat while wearing a club on his right hand that closely resembled a crab claw with only two fingers readily available.
Perry was back at it the following week in Arizona when he blindsided Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer for a strip-sack. His six sacks in five postseason games now rank third all-time in the Packers’ annals behind Clay Matthews (10 in 12 games) and Reggie White (eight in 14).
“I call him, ‘Playoff sack,’” said defensive lineman Mike Daniels, a member of Perry’s 2012 draft class. “Every time we’re in the playoffs, he manages to get back there and he gets some good hits on the quarterbacks. I’m glad he’s back and his work will tell.”
Perry hopes his luck is changing after battling through a rash of injuries during the early portion of his career. To his credit, he’s played in 33 of 36 games (including playoffs) the past two seasons despite dealing with shoulder injuries.
When he’s right, Perry has shown all the potential that made him a first-round pick four years ago. Along with his pass-rushing ability, he sets the edge against the run as well as anyone on the roster.
“Nick has proven that when he’s healthy and he’s on the field, he’s a true threat to offenses, especially in the pass rush,” linebacker Clay Matthews said. “Not only in the pass rush but in the run game as well he’s a huge factor.
“He’s got a one-year deal, kind of a prove-it deal, and we’d like to think if he can stay healthy he has a legitimate shot to be well taken care of.”
The competition at outside rusher likely will be fierce in 2016. Julius Peppers is back for a 15th NFL season and Matthews is slated to return to outside linebacker. Meanwhile, Perry, third-round pick Kyler Fackrell, Jayrone Elliott and elephant rusher Datone Jones will joust for snaps behind them.
Defensive coordinator Dom Capers believes Perry’s involvement in the offseason program will go a long way toward him getting off to a fast start in 2016.
As Capers demonstrates with his hand, the goal for Perry this summer is to keep trending upward.
“I think it’s significant,” said Capers of Perry’s participation in the offseason program. “I’m hoping that you can see him take and build off what he was doing at the end of the year last year. I think he likes where he is.”
Despite the setbacks, Perry always has tried to remain upbeat and positive about his situation. There’s nothing he can do about the past, so Perry has been focused on his future.
The way Perry looks at things, this offseason represents “a new chapter” in his football career. The work he puts in now during OTAs and mini-camp is something Perry hopes will catapult him to fulfilling his potential in 2016.
“When you get hit multiple times … hopefully things just go smoothly at some point,” Perry said. “There’s a time when that has to happen. Just being confident and just taking the high road. Right now, being in practice and doing things around the team, it’s really building things up from here.”