Sat, 20 Aug 2022

Motivation not in short supply for 2021 second-round draft pickMike Spofford

GREEN BAY - Josh Myers had been hurt before, but he'd never been truly injured.

That's what made Myers' rookie year, as the Packers' second-round draft pick and starting center from the day he arrived, so trying at times.

Sure, it wasn't exactly easy learning an NFL offensive playbook and adjusting to the speed of the pro game. It never is for a young player.

But for Myers, all that took a back seat to being forced to miss 11 games, first due to a broken finger and then a complex knee injury that led to multiple surgeries.

He's now recovered and ready to charge full speed ahead into Year 2 having grown in a way he didn't expect to. The former Ohio State star, already known for his physical toughness, believes he added an element of mental toughness through everything he endured last year.

"I learned a lot about myself," Myers said as the Packers' wrapped up their offseason program recently. "It was an incredibly difficult time, if I'm being honest. I've never missed time for an injury.

"I learned how to push through. I've been able to push through things physically when it's challenging. When something's that mentally challenging, it's just a whole different level of pushing through. I learned how to do that. It's just something I'd never done."

The 6-5, 310-pound center had played hurt in the past, at the end of his career in Columbus in fact, when he soldiered on through the College Football Playoff with a painful case of turf toe.

After getting drafted, he managed that injury through the offseason and was good to go for the preseason and regular-season opener. By his recollection, around Week 3 or 4 this new level of football was feeling normal, and he wasn't about to let a minor mishap like a broken finger halt his progress.

An infection in the finger sidelined him for one game, but he had it taped up and was back on the field Week 6 at Chicago when the knee injury occurred.

It turned out to be a torn MCL plus a tibial plateau fracture, serious damage that required hardware insertion on top of the ligament repair. He eventually returned for the regular-season finale and playoff contest, but starting just seven games was not what anyone had in mind for a rookie season that began with so much promise.

That said, Myers feels he gained enough experience in 2021 to not feel like a rookie anymore. Snapping to Aaron Rodgers during his fourth MVP season certainly factored into that, as Myers had to stay on top of all the signals and communication while going in and out of the lineup to avoid even momentary lapses of synergy with his quarterback.

Asked to select the most important thing he learned from Rodgers last season, Myers hesitated because there were too many choices. Then he zeroed in on one related to Rodgers' elevated attention to detail that's very specific to Myers' job - learning all the nuances to the snap counts and why they matter.

"I know I've talked about this before, with how good his cadence is. That's just an example," Myers said. "I think so many quarterbacks and so many teams take cadence for granted. Not him. Everything is so detailed. That's probably the biggest takeaway."

With that knowledge and a better understanding of the playbook under his belt, plus a healthier knee, Myers feels good heading into his second training camp. He's also decided to go back to wearing braces on both of his knees - which he did throughout high school and college - to try to avoid another injury like last year's.

NFL offensive linemen often eschew any braces they wore in college so as not to limit their mobility in the high-speed pro game, but at this stage Myers would rather reduce his injury risk despite the drawbacks.

"They're not super light, they're not super flexible, so those are the areas where they affect you the most," he said. "Sometimes they make your legs a little more tired, but those are all things I'm willing to work around.

"They really don't bother me that much. So I felt like it was a small sacrifice to make to protect my knees."

The other piece to put behind him, as with the entire team, is how the season ended in the NFC Divisional playoffs vs. San Francisco.

Having played at Ohio State in the CFP title game in 2020 and a semifinal in '21, the NFL postseason stage wasn't too big for Myers. It was just his second game back from the knee injury, but he thought he played "OK."

More to the point, because he had so few games of his own to review from last year, he suspects he's watched the film of it more than many of his teammates, so the result has stuck with him throughout the past several months.

It has given him an additional push, along with the desire to be and stay healthy, as Year 2 arrives.

"It goes through my mind a lot," he admitted of the playoff disappointment. "You know, I've had the fortune or misfortune, I guess how(ever) you look at it, of being really close a lot in my career to a ring, whether that be a national championship in college or a Super Bowl in the NFL.

"So being close but not quite being there has been something that's motivated me the last several offseasons."

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