GREEN BAY – The Packers’ newest outside linebackers aren’t a whole lot alike.
Chris Odom is an undrafted rookie making the transition from college defensive end who will be leaning on his NFL-alum father for advice as he tries to carve out a pro career.
Ahmad Brooks is a been-there-done-that former All-Pro entering his 12th year in the league with extensive knowledge of what the Packers want their 3-4 outside ’backers to do.
But one thing they will have in common as fresh arrivals to Green Bay is a lot of pre- and post-practice meetings with associate head coach/linebackers coach Winston Moss.
Both will look to get up to speed on the Packers’ defensive playbook as quickly as possible with Sunday’s season opener vs. Seattle just six days away.
“We’ll just see how it plays out,” Odom said of the transition period on Monday, the first day with his new team. “It’ll take some time and repetition for me to get acclimated to the defense, but after the meetings and first practice, I can definitely see a future here.”
The Packers liked Odom coming out of Arkansas State, bringing him to Green Bay for a pre-draft visit. He ended up signing with Atlanta after the draft but did not make the team, and Green Bay claimed him on waivers Sunday.
The son of Cliff Odom, a linebacker for 13 years (1980, ’82-93) with the Browns, Colts and Dolphins, Chris turned in his best preseason game in Atlanta’s finale last week, a performance he sees as a building block.
After getting released, he figured he would end up re-signing with the Falcons’ practice squad when his agent told him the Packers claimed him.
With Green Bay’s depth chart at outside linebacker wide open behind veterans Clay Matthews, Nick Perry and Brooks, opportunity is knocking amidst a reserve group that includes second-year pro Kyler Fackrell and practice-squad signee Reggie Gilbert
Odom said multiple times on Monday that he’s out to “prove my worth as a player,” a natural mindset for an undrafted rookie.
“I’m always used to proving myself,” Odom said. “I did it in high school as a one-year starter, I did it in college as a one-year starter, so that work ethic is not new to me.”
Outside linebacker is, though. Odom tried to make himself more marketable in the pre-draft process by doing drills from a stand-up position, but his transition is still in its infancy.
What he does bring to the table immediately is great size for the position (6-4, 262), and while he’ll learn as much as he can from the veterans in front of him, he’s also been hearing for years from his dad about what he’s in for.
“Taking his criticism and advice, I understand now what he was saying,” Odom said. “You can get all the advice in the world, but you don’t understand it until you get thrown into the fire. ‘OK, now I see what he means by this, and this is what I have to do.’”
Odom was impressed with the atmosphere in Green Bay when he visited back in April, and it felt the same returning to Lambeau Field this week.
The vibe around a contending Packers team had an impact on Brooks, too, as the sudden free agent searched for a new home following his release from the 49ers last week.
“Green Bay offered me the best contract, they had the best team, I wanted to be part of a winning tradition, a winning organization, and coming here gives me that,” Brooks said.
“You want to win a championship. I’ve come close in my career but just haven’t won one, so hopefully I can get one this year.”
Brooks was a key member of San Francisco’s dominant defenses from earlier this decade that helped the 49ers get to three straight NFC title games (2011-13) and one Super Bowl, knocking the Packers out of the playoffs twice along the way.
He didn’t fit with San Francisco’s change to a 4-3 defense this year, but he feels he’ll quickly rediscover his comfort zone in the Packers’ scheme, the same one he’s excelled in through most of his college and pro careers.
While learning all the terminology and nuances may take a while, Brooks sounded confident he could help the defense right away. Sunday’s opponent is an NFC West rival he knows well.
“It’s not that hard to rush the passer,” he said. “All you have to do is line up and go. In the first week, hopefully they’ll throw me out there.”