The Green Bay Packers' well-liked veteran Aaron Kampman has something to say, but the coaches aren’t listening. The Packers refuse to acknowledge he doesn’t like the forced switch from his Pro Bowl defensive end position to the left outside linebacker in the new 3-4 system this year.
Kampman was an elite NFL pass-rushing end recording 30+ sacks over the past three season. His silence stems not only from his displeasure with the change but also that he established himself as a dominant force on the line.
Aaron needs to break his silence and address the confidence and esteem his coaches hold in him. Coach Mike McCarthy clearly believes that the switch will produce better results based upon Kampman's professional attitude, athletic ability and the tireless energy he has both on and off the field.
He should view this as an opportunity to prove to the league, the Packers and himself that he is a versitile athlete capable of excelling at multiple positions. His professional mindset and absolute focus are positive signs that he will be successful as an outside linebacker.
The New England Patriots made a similiar more with Mike Vrabel with much success. As one of the most productive players over the past three years, Kampman will hopefully make a similiar transition from anchoring the D line to the linebackers.
While Kampman makes the switch, the Packers management and coaching staff need to step up their praise for his team-orientated focus to make amends. The organization addressed the change by bringing in Kevin Greene, a former Pro Bowl outside linebacker, to speed up Kampman’s transition and provide individual coaching.
That may satisfy the technical aspect of the position, but has it improved the situation in Aaron's mind? Defensive coordinator Dom Capers several conversations provide limited insight. “I haven’t sensed [Kampman’s discomfort with the move] at all since I’ve been here”, Capers told reports this week.
Caper's lack of insight does not dimish the fact that Kampman, maybe just maybe, deserves some recognition from higher management. Unfortunately this contrasts with Packers GM Ted Thompson's personal style in handing players.
While the outcome of this switch is uncertain, Kampman remains professional as ever. “He spent hour after hour with Kevin individually…He’s done all those things that you’d ask any player to do,” Capers continued to reporters earlier this week.
Why does Kampman continue to not address the transition publically? I believe there are three reasons to explain Kampman’s silence on this critical issue.
First, he doesn’t want to cause additional distractions for teammates given the circus-like atmosphere surrounding training camp in 2008.
Second, the organization reassured Kampman that he will be given plenty of opportunities to zone blitz the QB from his new linebacker position. This gives the Packers' best pass rusher a chance at double digit sack numbers again.
Lastly, he may feel foolish playing behind rookie defensive tackle, B.J. Raji from Boston College, who will line up in Kampman’s old position. Ironically, the unsigned rookie is missing precious practices that will slow his development this season.
“You’re a fool if you never learn from your past…but you can’t live in the past,” Kampman recently told Mike Vandermause of the Green Bay Press Gazette.
While Kampman's past results were a success, Packer players, let alone fans, cannot remain living in the past forever.