In a time when a ball hawking safety is one of the biggest needs for the Packers, it reminds us of what the Packers had in Nick Collins. After Collins went down with a neck injury in 2011, Ted Thompson spent many years trying to replace the All-Pro caliber player. Little did he know, Hall of Fame safeties don’t grow on trees.
Safeties drafted or signed after Collins’ injury:
The players with an “x” next to them indicates that they were already on the team at the time of Collins’ injury. Regardless, Green Bay invested in 11 players at the safety position since Nick Collins went down against the Carolina Panthers in 2011.
The first drafted free safety after Collins’ injury was Jerron McMillian who was selected in the 4th round of the 2012 draft. There were some great players selected after Green Bay selected McMillian in round 4. The list includes names like:
- Brandon Marshall ILB
- Josh Norman CB
- Marvin Jones WR
- Danny Trevathan ILB
- Tahir Whitehead ILB
Sean Richardson, being a box safety, likely still gets signed by the team. Richardson was in his first season as the hybrid LB/S role in Dom Capers’ defense when he sustained his career-ending injury.
Chris Banjo was signed mostly for depth and he provided a much needed spark on special teams.
The most significant investment was drafting Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the first round of the 2014 draft. This is a move that without a doubt, was made because of Collins’ injury. Ha Ha was a a first round pick, so there were plenty of stand out players taken after him in that draft. The Packers’ had several other needs that year, so here are some notable players taken shortly after Thompson drafted Ha Ha.
- Dee Ford OLB
- Jason Verrett CB
- Demarcus Lawrence OLB
- Joel Bitonio OT
- Lamarcus Joyner CB
- Stephon Tuitt DT
The remaining players were not drafted or signed because of Collins’ injury, but for depth or to play the strong safety position.
Nick Collins would be 35 today and likely retired or near retirement. His injury came in a year following 3 straight Pro Bowl selections, 3 straight second team All-Pro selections and a Super Bowl in which he recorded an important pick six. Collins played in 95 games in his career while former Packers’ safety, LeRoy Butler, played in 181 games. If Collins’ numbers were doubled, they would look very similar to those of Butler’s, who is a Hall of Fame talent.
Had Collins not gotten hurt, just how much better would the Packers have been? Would Aaron Rodgers’ prime not been “wasted”? Would Dom Capers still be employed? Would Mike McCarthy be considered a Hall of Fame coach? No one really knew what was in store for the future of Nick Collins, but the possibilities were endless. Nick Collins will always be remembered in Packers history.