GREEN BAY--Veteran nose tackle B.J. Raji knows well the challenging path that injured Green Bay Packers teammate Jordy Nelson must take the next several months.
“Like anything else in life, you have to acknowledge it, accept it and then move forward,” Raji said Thursday. “So the sooner you can acknowledge and accept it and just accept the situation, the better off you’ll be.”
Like Nelson, the Packers’ big-play receiver who suffered a torn ACL in a game last weekend, Raji had to face a full season without football after suffering a major injury in the preseason.
A torn biceps in Green Bay’s second-to-last exhibition game last August ended what had the potential to be a comeback season for Raji, who had re-signed with the team on a one-year deal.
“I thought last year when he came back to (training) camp, he had the right attitude, was working hard, really doing a good job taking coach, and then, unfortunately, he got hurt,” Packers defensive line coach Mike Trgovac said.
To the delight of Trgovac and Dom Capers, Green Bay’s longtime defensive coordinator, Raji has been healthy this summer. Entering his seventh NFL season, Raji is expected to be in the starting lineup when the Packers host Philadelphia in a preseason game on Saturday night.
Raji’s coaches are optimistic the one-time Pro Bowl selection can get back to being a difference maker in the middle of the defensive line when the season starts in two weeks.
Well-liked by teammates, Raji is enthusiastic about contributing again on the field after his 2014 season ended before it started. He even reported to camp in late July lighter on his feet. The team lists the 6-foot-2 Raji at 337 pounds, but he said a weigh-in this week revealed 328.
“Hopefully, that will carry over and enable him to get off to a great start for us because we’re going to need him to play well in these opening games,” Capers said.
The Packers will need him: Defensive end Datone Jones was suspended by the NFL for the first game Sept. 13 at the Chicago Bears. And Thursday, the league announced that Letroy Guion, who started every game in Raji’s absence last season, has been suspended for the first three games following his arrest earlier this year with what authorities said was marijuana in his possession.
Raji said his mobility has been aided by doing yoga at a Green Bay-area studio the last two years. He’s hoping that translates to the high rate of production he gave the Packers’ defense early in his career.
Raji again returned to the team this offseason on a one-year contract at a modest price, left to try to warrant a bigger payday by having a successful season.
“He’s played a lot before,” Capers said. “We know what he can do.”