Terrell Manning, linebacker for the Green Bay Packers, is ready for the new season to begin. He wants to prove not only that he is a quality NFL player, but that he is the best linebacker in the 2012 draft. This confidence shows up when he discuses the upcoming season:
Moments after he was selected 163rd overall in the 2012 NFL draft, Terrell Manning made a public declaration. So what if 21 linebackers were drafted ahead of him?
Manning believed he was as good as any in the draft. Bold letters. Mark it down. One year and three special-teams tackles later, he hasn’t flinched.
“I’m not going to back off that statement,” Manning said. “I definitely feel that I can be the best linebacker in the draft.”
Better than Luke Kuechly, better than Dont’a Hightower, better than Zach Brown.
Manning puts that expectation on himself without a nanosecond of hesitation. Given a chance, he repeats, he’ll back it up. The inside linebacker from North Carolina State remains one of the great mysteries on the Green Bay Packers’ roster. A wild card. So in his pursuit of a role in Green Bay’s defense, Manning will carry this brazen, borderline-cocky attitude.
Manning was not a big contributor last year as his rookie campaign was derailed by a parasite. Yes, a parasite.
At full capacity, Manning hopes to make his move. This time last summer, Manning couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat and endured miserable bouts of diarrhea. On the field, Manning often feared he’d, uh, void his bowels. As the linebacker has discussed at length, he had a parasite in his stomach that caused colitis â€” the swelling of the large intestine â€” and proceeded to lose 15 to 20 pounds. Manning didn’t seek help until the third preseason game.
Now Manning is healthy and ready to go.
On Friday, the competition will commence. Thus far, there have been glimpses of the instinctive linebacker who totaled 193 tackles (27.5 for loss) and eight forced fumbles in three years at N.C. State. On one recent screen pass, Manning blew past center Evan Dietrich-Smith for a stop. Before calling him to the batter’s box, the Packers need more of this on film. Manning admits he’s hesitant sometimes, that he catches himself thinking.
Against an opponent, he expects the tackles for loss, the turnovers, the big plays to return.
That’s what Manning says will separate himself from Kuechly and the others. He brands himself a play-maker, a force whose production matched that of the ninth overall pick (Kuechly) and 52nd overall pick (Brown) in the ACC. Seeing them then and seeing them now only feeds Manning’s opinion.
“Not to say I’m disappointed in them by any means â€” I feel like they’re all good players, they’re in the NFL, how bad could they be?” Manning said. “But at the same time, I just like feel like I’m better.” And “no doubt about it,” Manning says, he considers himself the best linebacker in the class.
He fully realizes this may sound cocky, arrogant. To date, he has provided more bluster than bruises in the pros. Yet through two conversations, Manning’s voice carries a wait-until-game day tone. Once he gets a chance, a series, Manning believes the play-maker inside him will emerge.
Which is why Manning has no problem toeing the line between confidence and cockiness. “I say ‘confidence.’ Some say ‘cocky.’ It’s all how you define it,” Manning said. “At the end of the day, if I’m right, I’m right. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong.”
There’s “no excuses” this summer, Manning admits. He’s healthy. Last summer’s nightmare is finally behind him. Now, starting with the Arizona Cardinals, it’s time for him to back up that draft-day premonition.
“I think we’ll see a glimpse of what Terrell Manning has to offer on Friday,” Manning said. “Once I touch the field, what you see is what you’re going to get. “With the prediction, it’ll speak for itself.”
As a big Manning fan, I hope he becomes “the best linebacker in the 2012 draft.”