GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The feel-good story of the Green Bay Packers’ draft has turned into the first major medical watch of the 2017 season.
Welcome to the NFL, Vince Biegel.
In a sign of how quickly things can change for a rookie, the Packers’ fourth-round pick now faces questions about whether he’ll be ready for the start of training camp after he underwent foot surgery last week to correct a problem that dates to last fall at the University of Wisconsin.
Although that’s not the death knell to Biegel’s rookie season, it is a reminder that teams that count on rookies to make an immediate impact might be asking for too much.
The Packers drafted Biegel to bolster their pass rush after losing Julius Peppers and Datone Jones in free agency. They put his locker smack dab between Clay Matthews and Nick Perry with the hope that he would learn quickly from the team’s two best pass-rushers, something that was not lost on Biegel when he reported for rookie camp the week after the draft.
“I think it started when my locker was right next to Clay Matthews; that was really a dream come true if you will,” Biegel said. “Right next to Nick Perry as well, and really just so many greats in this locker room. I’m excited to start practice [during] OTAs and obviously finish up rookie minicamp here, and learn from greats like Clay and also on the offensive side of the ball like [Aaron] Rodgers and so forth. So I’m really looking forward to the opportunity here.”
There will be no OTA or minicamp practices for Biegel. The rookies rejoined the veterans on Monday for the final week of individual drills before full-squad offseason practices begin next week. Biegel will be a spectator for it all.
The Packers hoped he would make a Matthews-like impact as a rookie; in 2009, Matthews posted 10 sacks. Instead, Biegel’s rookie season has the chance to more closely mirror Perry’s; in 2012, Perry battled injuries, played in only six games and recorded just two sacks.
If all goes well, Biegel will be back on the field for the start of training camp on July 27 and this won’t be an issue. It’s a recurrence of the Jones fracture -- which is a break of a bone in the mid-portion of the foot -- he sustained with the Badgers last fall, when he underwent surgery to have a screw inserted into his foot. Perhaps he returned too soon last time; he missed only two games. The Packers will no doubt take the long view when it comes to Biegel’s return, which could put the start of his rookie season in jeopardy.
Biegel was the first rookie to report to Lambeau Field after the draft, perhaps because he had the shortest trip. He grew up in the nearby town of Wisconsin Rapids.
“I just drove up to the gate, it opened right up,” Biegel said during rookie camp. “So it’s really a dream come true.”
That dream, however, is now on hold.