In the clear: Letroy Guion's once-cloudy future looks bright with Packers

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Letroy Guion overpowered JC Tretter, nearly knocked Kyle Steuck off his feet, and then buzzed around Kyle Murphy.

Three reps and three wins for the Green Bay Packers' defensive tackle in the ultra-competitive one-on-one drill in Tuesday’s practices.

It was almost as if Guion looked around, realized he was one of the few veterans among the defensive linemen and decided to show the youngsters how it’s done.

In fact, he was.

With Mike Daniels at home sick and B.J. Raji at home after giving up football earlier this offseason, Guion and Mike Pennel were the only defensive tackles on the field who had ever played in an NFL regular-season game. And considering that Pennel will have to sit out the first four regular-season games because of a suspension, it will be Guion and Daniels and a bunch of newcomers to start the season.

How things have changed for Guion in a year.

Last summer at this time, he was getting in his final snaps before he had to serve a three-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. It stemmed from his February 2015 arrest for felony marijuana possession. At the time of his arrest, he was deep in negotiations with the Packers about a long-term deal. Instead, it wasn’t until after he reached a plea arrangement in March that he returned to Green Bay on just a one-year deal.

Although he started slow, was playing out of position at defensive end following his suspension and had to wait until last December to recover his property (cash and his truck) seized by police during his arrest, Guion showed enough last season to warrant a three-year, $11.25 million contract just before he would have become a free agent this past offseason.

“It always gets cloudy when you’ve got off-the-field problems,” Guion said. “I’m glad that’s in the clear now. I’m glad I got past all that and can be back here doing what I love.”

With Raji on hiatus and first-round pick Kenny Clark battling a back injury that kept him out of practice on Tuesday, Guion has lined up mostly at his favorite position, nose tackle. It’s where Guion played in 2014, his first year with the Packers, when Raji was out all season with a biceps injury, and he enjoyed perhaps the best season of his eight-year career. It's the same kind of year, if not better, he's looking for this season.

“We all hated to see B.J. leave,” Guion said. “He was a good friend and a good teammate. But when guys leave, it’s the next man up and I’m the next man up and it’s up to me to uphold the standards of our defensive line.”

In part because they like how well Guion has played at nose, the Packers have experimented with a three-man defensive front that includes Daniels and rookie Dean Lowry at the defensive end spots rather than playing Clark, also a nose tackle, with the first unit.

“I think Letroy is a better nose tackle than out at the end,” defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. “That’s where he’s played. We’ve used him out at the end at certain times but we like him inside at the nose tackle. When we play our nickel defense, we like him in there on one of the guards or over the center.”

Guion on Tuesday showed some of the same pass-rush ability he flashed in 2014, when he posted a career high with 3.5 sacks. He ran his camp-long record in the one-on-one drill to 10-8, becoming one of the few defensive players to move over the .500 mark.

It’s clear that Capers will count heavily on Guion this season, and he’s fine with those expectations.

“Expect me to ball out,” Guion said.