By Kathleen Nelson
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Sunday, Oct. 08 2006
Last winter, defensive tackle Ryan Pickett might have expected to be playing
Sunday in Green Bay. He didn't expect to be playing for the Packers.
After five seasons with the Rams, Pickett's career was on the upswing. He had
made steady progress under the tough love of defensive line coach Bill Kollar
after being selected in the first round of the 2001 draft. He led the NFL's
interior lineman in tackles last season with 115, and the Rams had begun
negotiations on a new contract. But the Rams' interest waned March 7 when they
signed tackle La'Roi Glover.
"That did make the decision for us as far as where we prioritized signing
another free-agent tackle," Rams coach Scott Linehan said. "Ryan did a nice
job, was real open to possibly coming back. The business is that way."
Pickett acknowledged he was upset that the Rams stopped negotiating but moved
to other options.
"I thought I would end my career in St. Louis," he said. "I really loved it
there, the people there. I had all my friends there. When they backed out, I
was like, 'Man. I've been playing all these years and they backed out.'"
Pickett drew interest from the Bengals, Packers and Bills, where he would have
been reunited with the boisterous Kollar. But after meeting with Packers coach
Mike McCarthy and position coach Robert Nunn, he decided Green Bay was a good
fit and canceled his visit to Cincinnati.
"The Packers wanted to let me play -- so I wouldn't be a nose guard all the
time and taking on the double team," Pickett said. "I could go with Kollar
again, but I thought it was time for something different. I thank God I had
Kollar my first couple years to run me in the dirt and yell. I know what it's
like. It's built in me now to go to the ball."
The atmosphere and expectations in Green Bay versus St. Louis, Pickett said,
are "like night and day. My coach now, you can't get him to yell or cuss or
anything. It's a big difference. I'm playing basically the left side. However
the offense lines up dictates where I line up.
"I'm kind of like the leader. Man, the whole D-line is young. I'm like the
oldest interior lineman. I have to watch what I say and do around them, and
they follow what I do."
Pickett and his family settled in quickly. He reported that his wife, Jennifer,
bought a couple of cheeseheads right away and that fans recognize him at
restaurants. He also has made himself at home on the field, with 15 tackles.
"We're very happy with Ryan," McCarthy said. "He's our most consistent player
up front. He's done a very nice job. He's come around and fit in our scheme.
He's done a very good job against both the run and the pass. We're very pleased
to have him here."
A couple of things would make Pickett's transition complete. First, the name:
Since childhood, Pickett has been known as "Grease," or "Big Grease," but the
Packers have been slow to catch on. Note, for example, the use of "Ryan" by
McCarthy.
"It's starting to pick up a little bit," Pickett said. "They call me Ryan, but
I don't answer to that. I'd rather everybody call me 'Grease.'"
Now, about that weather: Pickett is a native of Zephyrhills, Fla., and had
trouble adjusting to the climate when he played at Ohio State. Though he has
yet to experience the tundra-like conditions of winter in Wisconsin, he already
dreads it.
"I don't know how I'm ever going to get used to it; it's cold now," Pickett
said Wednesday, when weather.com reported that the temperature in Green Bay was
63.
His biggest challenge may be facing old friends for the first time. Pickett
estimated that he had lined up against Rams guard Adam Timmerman "hundreds of
times" in practice, and he said he had stayed in touch with defensive tackle
Jimmy Kennedy.
"It's going to be weird, man," Pickett said. "I grew close to all of them and
miss them. At the same time, I want to go out there and do my best against
them, ... but it will be a little weird."