GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Some familiar faces are helping new Green Bay Packers safety Johnathan Abram adapt to switching teams at midseason as the former first-round draft pick looks to rejuvenate his career.
The Packers claimed Abram off waivers this week from the Las Vegas Raiders, who had taken him with the 27th overall pick in the 2019 draft. Abram becomes the latest former Las Vegas player to join Green Bay since the Packers hired ex-Raiders interim head coach Rich Bisaccia as special teams coordinator.
Green Bay (3-6) already had added former Raiders cornerback Keisean Nixon and safety Dallin Leavitt, who have boosted the Packers’ special teams. Abram considers Nixon one of his closest friends and says they even got matching shark tattoos a few years ago.
“The motto is, on Mondays, sharks don’t wake up and say it’s Monday,” Abram said. “They wake up and just eat.”
Those former Raiders aren’t the only guys Abram already knows at Green Bay.
Abram played alongside Packers offensive lineman Elgton Jenkins and running back/kick returner Kylin Hill at Mississippi State. Another former Mississippi State player on Green Bay's roster is outside linebacker Preston Smith, though he wasn't n college at the same time as Abram.
“We’re joking about bringing back the Bulldogs together,. ... We’re going to kind of make this the Green Bay Bulldogs," Abram quipped.
When he was reminded the Packers also have a couple of Bulldogs of a different sort after selecting former Georgia players Eric Stokes, Quay Walker and Devonte Wyatt in the first round of the last two drafts. Abram pointed out he played for both schools. Abram started his college career at Georgia in 2015 before transferring to Mississippi State.
Abram, 26, could benefit from a change of scenery after falling out of favor with the Raiders. He started six games and had 48 tackles for Las Vegas this season, but his playing time had dropped lately.
“The coaching staff just decided to go in a different direction,” said Abram, who has 34 career starts. “They know what they want. They know what’s best, so that didn’t include me. So I’m here now, just trying to help Green Bay win.”
Abram joins a Green Bay team that will be trying to snap its first five-game skid since 2008 when it hosts the Dallas Cowboys (6-2) on Sunday.
Bisaccia believes Abram still has something to offer.
“He’ll come in, he’ll be a diligent learner,” Bisaccia said. “He can run. He’s a physical player and I think he’ll have to catch up a little bit to figure out what we’re trying to do here defensively. But he knows a little bit about our system and the kicking game.”
Abram’s arrival adds some depth to a Green Bay secondary that is dealing with the loss of Stokes, who injured his ankle and knee Sunday in a 15-9 loss at Detroit. Packers coach Matt LaFleur said Friday that the prospect of Stokes playing again this season is “looking unlikely."
Abram also should contribute on special teams.
“Going to bring us another guy who’ll run through walls, hit, physical,” Nixon said. “He knows his game. Good person to be around. He’s going to be a good addition to the team.”
Abram could allow the Packers to mix and match guys as they attempt to fill the void created by Stokes’ injury. Defensive coordinator Joe Barry talked last week about how safety Darnell Savage could be a great fit as a nickel corner.
Of course, it could take some time for Abram to make any kind of impact as he adapts to his new team.
“When you sign a guy like that, it gives you options,” Barry said. “And I think in our current state, it’s great to have options. I’m just glad that he’s here.”
Abram is equally happy, particularly since he has some old friends alongside him.
“It’s an unfortunate situation having to up and move in the middle of the season, but I look forward to the new start,” Abram said. “The guys have embraced me. The coaching staff has embraced me. It’s been nothing but welcome and love, so I look forward to it.”
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