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A big (off)season for Derek Sherrod

6/18/2014

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Derek Sherrod is entering his fourth NFL season, yet this is the first time the Green Bay Packers' former first-round draft pick has gone through the entire offseason program.

And he's going to need it.

Finally healthy and fully able to participate in coach Mike McCarthy's program for the first time he broke both bones in his lower right leg as a rookie, Sherrod might be down to his last chance to prove that he can play.

The Packers declined the fifth-year option that all 2011 first-round draft picks had in their contracts, meaning Sherrod is in the final season of his rookie contract. Only 11 of the 32 first-round picks from 2011 did not have their options exercised. Sherrod is scheduled to make $1,275,273 this season.

The fifth-year option would have forced the Packers to pay Sherrod $7.438 million next season, which would have been guaranteed if Sherrod sustained an injury this season that kept him out in 2015.

In that regard, it was an easy decision to decline the option, and even Sherrod, who has not started a game in his first three seasons, knows it.

"I had a little idea because I haven't been able to play for a while," Sherrod said in his first public comments since the team declined his option last month. "That's just the business of everything, and I understand."

After missing the entire 2012 season while recovering from the surgery to place a rod in his right leg, Sherrod finally returned to the roster in Week 11 of last season after beginning the season on the physically unable to perform list. He played in seven games, almost exclusively on special teams except for six snaps at right tackle in the final minutes of the Thanksgiving day blowout loss at the Detroit Lions.

"It was a long process before that point, just getting back there and actually getting offensive snaps," Sherrod said. "It felt pretty good just to get that live action and be in that environment."

This offseason, Sherrod has worked exclusively at left tackle – the spot the Packers envisioned for the 6-foot-6, 321-pounder when they took him with the 32nd overall pick more than three years ago. Almost all of his reps have come as starter Bryan Bulaga's backup.

"It's meant a lot," Sherrod said. "Technically, it's my first offseason activities and just going through and getting all these extra reps and going through the plays and actually running them, that was very beneficial. I felt like it was all beneficial."

Offensive line coach James Campen used one word – "huge," which he actually said twice – to describe what it has meant for Sherrod to go through the full offseason program.

"Because he's never had an offseason," Campen continued. "I mean, you see his movements out there, and we just got done watching the tape [of Tuesday's practice]. The kid looks terrific. The next step for him is to get him into the daily grind, put the pads on and go pound it."