GREEN BAY – The situation wasn’t new to Jordan Tripp. He’d actually been in this position twice before during his young NFL career.
The Packers, in need of another veteran presence on special teams, signed the third-year linebacker off the street with only three weeks left in the regular season.
Coincidentally, Tripp hit the free-agent market only days earlier when the Seahawks waived him off their injured-reserve list. After getting the call from his agent, the 6-foot-3, 234-pound linebacker packed a bag and headed to Green Bay.
Tripp played in two games for the Packers last season, but it wasn’t until the spring he finally got the chance to really dive into the defensive and special-teams playbooks.
It was the third time Tripp had to adjust during an in-season switch. He did it in 2014 with Jacksonville and again with Seattle a year later.
Still, the difference between learning on the fly and getting a full offseason to digest the scheme is substantial.
“Once you get into the season, it’s more game plan,” Tripp said. “It’s more, ‘What are we going to do to stop their attack with what we do best?’
“Right now, you’re more able to focus on your technique, fundamentals and execution so, once you get to the season, that stuff’s second-nature and you’re anticipating more rather than thinking about your job responsibility.”
Tripp was a part of the same 2014 NFL Draft class as fellow linebacker Jake Ryan. As a fifth-round pick out of Montana, Tripp spent his first year with Miami before his stops in Jacksonville, Seattle and now Green Bay.
While Tripp is still only 26 years old, assistant linebackers coach Scott McCurley “loves” the veteran mindset he brings to the room. His past NFL experiences also have been beneficial for a group of almost entirely homegrown players outside of the two weeks Joe Thomas spent with the Cowboys in 2014.
“He’s a really competitive guy out on the field, a really vocal guy,” said McCurley of Tripp. “He’s done a lot of nice things coming in this spring and summer after trying to get into the flow of things late last year. It was tough to bring him along but he’s done a really good job of communicating and bringing some leadership to the group.”
Tripp credits McCurley, Ryan, Thomas, and 2016 fourth-round pick Blake Martinez for helping him get up to speed last year. McCurley, specifically, carved out extra time down the stretch to make sure Tripp was comfortable with the defense.
Like any player, Tripp “absolutely” wants to compete for a starting spot on defense this summer. However, he also knows it’s his work on special teams that will give him the best shot at achieving his first goal – making the 53-man roster.
A veteran of 34 regular-season games, Tripp possesses the size and athleticism coordinator Ron Zook likes to see in his special-teams stalwarts. Tripp believes his willingness to speak up and lead by example is a plus.
“I want to be the leader of that unit,” Tripp said. “I love playing special teams. You have an opportunity every single play to make an impact that can flip the game, whether it’s a big punt return, a punt block, getting somebody down inside the 10 or a big kickoff or a forced fumble. Those plays, as you’ve seen before, can change the course of a game in one play.”
Tripp ended his first offseason in Green Bay on a high note. He and coaching administrator Omar Young won an egg-toss competition at the end of the final minicamp practice.
Players were given zero warning ahead of time the event was going to take place. In a joking tone, Tripp credited Young’s arm and his own soft hands for sealing the victory.
Tripp knows what’s ahead of him once the team returns for training camp at the end of July. He’ll then have a little more than a month to show General Manager Ted Thompson and his scouts they were right to bring him in last December.
“That’s the overall culture that Mr. Thompson brings in here – it’s come in, take care of your business and know your role and hold yourself accountable,” Tripp said. “I believe that’s what I bring. You can build off that every single day to become the best you can be.”