Packers seeing second year surge from linebackers

Packers linebacker Nate Palmer takes part in a drill during training camp.

GREEN BAY – For NFL rookies, everything is new, everything is different, just the daily routine can be a challenge. According to linebacker Nate Palmer, by year two though, it’s not sweat. "I think I've got a pretty good grasp of camp life and the daily grind and things of that nature. I know what to expect,” Palmer said. Having a firm grasp on the day-to-day routine and expectations has translated to on field results. "Going out there and running. I think that's something that I showed that I didn't show last year probably because I was nervous because I didn't understand the scheme and the things of that nature," Palmer said.

Assistant head coach and linebackers coach Winston Moss has been pressed by the former sixth round pick’s development. "He's had a great offseason, he's had a great approach, he's had a chance to catch his breath,” Moss said.
Even for a rookie, Palmer faced an uphill climb in 2013 going from playing at FCS school Illinois State to the NFL and due to injuries Palmer was given a heavy workload during the season. “There was so much thrown on his plate early last year so now he's had the time to absorb the scheme and now I think you're seeing a guy who's steadily improving and Nate brings a lot to the table," Moss said.

Palmer played in eight games during his rookie campaign, recording 18 tackles. Palmer wasn’t the only linebacker in that 2013 draft class though. Seventh round pick Sam Barrington appeared in seven games before being placed on the injured reserve. He’s also shown the growth that’s expected of second year players, although according to Winston Moss, Barrington’s understanding of the game is the biggest change.

"He's accepted that you can't just come out and do it all on physical skills alone. You have to be a great pro off the field. You have to go home. You have to study. You have to put the time in and all you're doing is seeing that," Moss said.

Barrington shared the credit for his improvement with coach Moss and Scott McCurley, the assistant linebackers coach. Instead of just getting yelled for doing something wrong they explain how to prevent the same mistake from happening again. "They've done a great job of presenting certain information to me also you don't even want to mess up because they presented it to you so well that that you're like how could I mess this up so that's a positive thing about it."

Moss explained the classroom process further, "We've given him a lot of reps in the classroom in a setting that forces him to go through all of his call commands all of his responsibilities and he's responded well to that."

While Barrington’s an inside linebacker and Palmer plays outside, the duo seem to have formed a friendship, one that has them pulling for each other in practice, even while possibly competing for spots on the team. "I joke with Sam, we need to do something to jump off tape today so you know that's something that I try to do," Palmer said.

Barrington added, “It's actually fun, pairing up with a guy and we're competing with each other and we're going out to work and improve with each other as well."