For one Packer 'next man up' is a second chance
Tackle Derek Sherrod. (Placed on PUP list.) Photo: Image by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
There is no question that the Green Bay Packers have had their fair share of disappointment when it comes to first round draft selections.
It's rather rare for the first round pick to be come the focal point for the entire team.
Let's face it, a mega-impact first rounder like Aaron Rodgers comes around once in a generation.
If Rodgers is the epitome of the perfect draft selection, then Tony Mandarich is the poster child of choosing poorly.
"The Incredible Bulk" quickly became the "Incredible Bust."
It has been 23 years since the Packers chose Mandarich as the second over all pick in the 1989 draft, but few have forgotten what an utter waste he became - even citing him as one of the biggest disappointments to ever be drafted in the entire NFL.
Then there are the first round hopes that never materialized because of injury.
1999 and Antuan Edwards comes to mind. He showed promise his rookie season, and was even named to College and Pro Football Weekly's All-Rookie Team.
Yet that potential never came to fruition. A knee injury took him out of the 2001 season, and he never returned to that promising form he showed in college and his rookie year.
What about Justin Harrell? His career fizzled out almost as quickly as it started.
A biceps injury hampered him in his first OTAs after the draft.
He started his first camp hurt, overweight and out of shape. As it was, he didn't see any playing time until nearly a third of the way through his rookie season.
Then came the back injury, and then the knee injury. In the blink of the eye he was shown the door like other first round choices that amounted to not much of anything.
Enter Derek Sherrod.
To look at his history with the Packers, it's important to look back to how he got to where he is today.
It's 2011 and the Super Bowl XLV celebrations are finally start die down as the teams gather at Music City Radio Hall to select their newest draft classes.
The old guard (really, tackles) - Mark Tauscher and Chad Clifton - are all but a thing of the past.
Daryn Colledge has left for greener pastures (and greener paychecks) in sunny Arizona.
The reigning Super Bowl MVP desperately needs new talent to protect him, so it is no surprise to anyone that general manager Ted Thompson decided to go with a tackle with the Packers' first selection.
By the end of the first round, Mississippi State's Derek Sherrod was holding up a green and gold jersey.
Like many rookies, Sherrod had a slow start as he transitioned from the college to pro game. He made rookie mistakes and contributed to some of the sacks that sent Aaron Rodgers crashing to the turf.
But he showed promise. He just needed time to develop.
Then December 18, 2011 rolled around.
Most recall that Sunday as the trap game where the perfect season came to a grinding halt and the Packers fell to the lowly Kansas City Chiefs. The 1972 Miami Dolphins' record was safe for another year.
For Derek Sherrod, it was the day his life changed forever.
It very well could have signaled the end of his brief football career.
Few likely recall the name of the linebacker that rolled into Sherrod (his name was Tamba Hali if you're curious) near the end of the game, but everyone watching the game can recall what happened next.
Sherrod's career shattered along with his right lower leg.
It was bad, really bad. Bad enough to bring the cart off because he couldn't put any weight on his right leg.
Both of the bones in the lower leg snapped and everything below the break dangled in a lifeless fashion.
The fracture was bad enough that it not only threatened Sherrod's future as an NFL player, but threatened the viability of the leg itself.
The fracture wasn't minor like the one Randall Cobb sustained last weekend; it wasn't something that had the luxury of time to be dealt with by the Packers' medical staff when they were comfortably back home in Green Bay.
No, Sherrod's injury was bad enough that he was in a operating room in Kansas City while his teammates were in the air flying home after their loss on the road.
The injury could not wait and it was Kansas City team orthopedist Cris Barnthouse that repaired the damaged leg, not the Packers' physician, Patrick McKenzie.
Everyone knew Sherrod's rehab would be gauged in months, not weeks, but the longer he remained off the practice field, the more the doubt grew that he would never return at all.
He spent 2012 on injured reserve - not much a surprise there.
Then 2013 rolled along and there were whispers of a second surgery ,and he was placed on the PUP list, more time just observing from the sideline.
More dark clouds gathered over his future as a Packer.
Not exactly a confidence-building prospect in a season already plagued by injury heaped upon injury.
Yet this season mirrors the 2010 season in an eerie fashion.
The first rounders and others are a band of walking wounded once again on the sidelines.
Bryan Bulaga is once again on IR, Clay Matthews is out with a broken thumb, and Nick Perry has joined them with a foot fracture.
Then there's Randall Cobb. While not a first rounder, his absence will be felt through at least December.
So this week's news that Derek Sherrod suiting up and joining his team on the active roster could not happen at a better time.
As others drop like flies, he is ready to return, a shining light in the darkness that hovers over the Hutson Center on Oneida Avenue.
Sherrod is poised to emerge like a phoenix from the ashes of past disappointment.
Keep Calm and Carry On.
Head coach Mike McCarthy uttered that World War II British mantra that rallied the masses.
Don't give up under adversity. Persevere.
That's exactly what Derek Sherrod has quietly done.
While everyone - myself included - had counted him out, he was quietly in the trainer's room at Lambeau receiving treatment.
He was marking success each day in baby steps--more reps, longer distances, more weight.
He hadn't given up on himself, and neither did the team.
Granted he is nowhere ready to start. In a way he is still very much a rookie.
After all, he only has five games under his belt. Y
et unlike a true rookie, Sherrod has had over a year to absorb the classroom aspect of the Packers' game plan.
The injury list may seem to grow by the day, but Derek Sherrod has become the Next Man Up.
It's an opportunity he has patiently waited for since December 2011.
His name has been called. He will put on his pads an helmet. He will have every intention of protecting the face of the franchise.
As he walks out to the practice field, he will carry with him all of the hope and promise that the next man up embodies. Keep calm and carry on. He hasn't given up under adversity. He has persevered.
He is ready.
And for this former skeptic, I will be cheering his return.
If he can overcome such a devastating injury, then the Green Bay Packers can overcome their current injury problems.
Keep Calm and Go Pack Go.
Kelly Hodgson (@ceallaigh_k on Twitter) who grew up across the river from Lambeau Field, is the co-host of the podcast "Out of the Pocket" at Packerstalk.com. Her other Packers musings can be found at PocketDoppler.com.