GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Nick Collins isn't about to fade into the background.
Although many NFL players who sustain season-ending injuries tend to drift out of touch with their teammates, the Green Bay Packers' Pro Bowl safety is staying involved after his neck injury in Week 2. And he's not just there to provide moral support.
Collins is trying to watch the game like a coach now, and believes he can help the defense fix its recent communication problems.
The Super Bowl champions are off to an 8-0 start, but have been giving up too many big plays on defense, and nearly coughed up a three-touchdown lead in a narrow victory at San Diego on Sunday. Coach Mike McCarthy cited miscommunication as the main issue in Sunday's game, and Collins will try to help as the Packers prepare for Minnesota.
"I'm going to try to," Collins said. "This week, we have a Monday night game. I think I'm going to attend a couple more meetings and see if I can help."
At this point, Collins doesn't know if he'll be able to continue his playing career and might not have an answer for months. He only recently was able to take off his neck brace after having surgery, but he's still committed to helping the Packers get back to the Super Bowl.
"It's tough," Collins said. "It is. You're like, 'If I was out there, I could alert this or do that.' But I think I do a nice job once they get to the sideline letting them know what's going on. And at the same time, I don't want to be jumping in the coaches' way while they're trying to teach. With my experience, though, I feel like guys will listen to what I have to say and want to know how I recognize things. I just try to approach it to those guys."
McCarthy said it's hard to say how much losing Collins has hurt the Packers' defense.
"I don't think you can quantify an impact any time a player is not available," McCarthy said. "Nick is a Pro Bowl player, and he's obviously a tremendous playmaker in our back end, has been in the defense here since day one. The communication errors that we had (Sunday), they're all correctable and I don't think you can really quantify it based on a player's absence."
However, it's worth noting that the Packers struggled to stop the pass against New Orleans and Carolina even before Collins got hurt.
"Our offense is so explosive, we get those big leads, I think some guys go out there and kind of relax and forget what's going on and how to stay competitive at a high level when we have that lead," Collins said. "And then we have all these breakdowns."
But Collins said the main problem, as pointed out by coaches, was communication.
"A.J. (Hawk) gets the call, he relays it to everybody," Collins said. "Then the secondary, we call out what formation they're in, what personnel. Whatever happens after that, the safeties have to make all the adjustments. If the corners are working with the linebackers, they have to communicate. All that goes hand in hand. From the defensive line to the linebacker to the secondary, we all have to be on the same page."
And lately that hasn't always been the case.
There have been some slight hints of discontent on defense, with Charles Woodson suggesting to reporters after Sunday's game that Clay Matthews, who has only three sacks this season, needs to be used more creatively.
Defensive coordinator Dom Capers gently disagreed on Monday.
"I think we try to be as creative with Clay as you can possibly be. You look around the league, I don't know if there's too many defensive players that move around more than what Clay does."
Collins says the Packers have to trust Capers' scheme.
"We can turn this around if everyone just does their job," Collins said. "Charles is a veteran guy who's played the game for a long time and sees the game from so many different ways. He's wondering why we're not doing some of the things that we put in that can help us. And Dom's a great D-coordinator. We have to play what's called, no matter how we feel. We have to go out and attack it. If he calls it, play it, and play it to the best of our ability. I do feel we can help ourselves out a little more, doing some different things. But I'm on the outside looking in."