GREEN BAY –- Aaron Rodgers isn’t exactly the easiest guy to impress, but rookie cornerback Micah Hyde has done just that.
“He’s one of those guys from day one - I’ve talked about it over the years - who just, without saying anything, you knew they kind of belonged,” the Green Bay Packers quarterback said on his weekly radio show on 540 ESPN and ESPNWisconsin.com earlier this week.
For most rookies – and many veterans, for that matter – that kind of praise from someone like Rodgers would mean a lot. Perhaps it would even inspire greater confidence. But with his first NFL regular-season game looming and the key role he figures to play in it, Hyde declined to put much stock in the kind words from Rodgers.
“To be honest, it really doesn't mean anything because I haven't stepped on the game field in a regular-season game yet and made any plays,” Hyde said when told Wednesday of Rodgers’ comments. “So, I'm still the rookie right now and I just stepped on the field.”
“I'm a nobody right now.”
In the eyes of his running mates in the secondary and head coach Mike McCarthy, Hyde is far from a “nobody.” In fact, much like Rodgers implied on his radio show, Hyde is barely thought of as a rookie, despite having not played in a meaningful NFL game to this point.
“He's a guy that's very poised and it seems like no stage is too big for him,” safety Morgan Burnett said at his locker on Wednesday. “When you see him out there, you forget at times he's a rookie because he understands the defense very well.”
Since being drafted in the fifth round this spring after starting for three seasons at Iowa, Hyde was given ample opportunity to gain on-field experience during the preseason, having participated in a total of 156 plays, more than any other Packer on either side of the ball. That excludes his reps on special teams, including two punt returns for 25 yards.
According to McCarthy, Hyde made the most of his playing time.
“Micah Hyde (was) probably one of the top producers throughout training camp, and this will be a great opportunity for him,” McCarthy said during his weekly press conference. “Micah will do whatever is asked and I have a lot of confidence in him."
Come Sunday afternoon in San Francisco, Hyde will be asked to fill the shoes of second-year cornerback Casey Hayward, who was officially ruled out with the hamstring injury he suffered Aug. 23. McCarthy said there isn’t a timeline for Hayward’s return, either.
Hyde figures to take Hayward’s spot in the team’s nickel package, and after Hayward led the team with six interceptions last season and was a candidate for the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year award while playing a very similar role, that’s no small task. But Hyde expects to be ready.
“You know, Day 1, when I came in, Coach said 'Prepare for anything, prepare like you're going to be the starter Week 1,’” Hyde recalled. “He mentioned Sam [Shields] coming in an undrafted free agent and he had to come in and play right away. So, he just mentioned that and said 'prepare for anything' and whatever happens, you better be ready for or else you're going to be made a fool out there.”
Shields was the third cornerback in the nickel as an undrafted free agent in 2010, when the Packers won Super Bowl XLV, and had some advice for Hyde, the youngest member of the Packers secondary.
“Like we keep telling Micah, you know just go out there and keep doing what you've been doing,” Shields said. “You're going to make mistakes. That's part of the game. You just got to look that over and go to the next play.”
So while the amount of game action he has seen this preseason may have him more prepared than the average rookie, Hyde’s overall demeanor and approach to the game has him in a place he feels comfortable with mentally, as well.
“To be honest, I mean, you're going to have a little jitters, just excitement to get on the field. But I don't think for me, I don't see myself getting nervous just from the fact that I'm preparing myself to play,” said Hyde, who gave up a 57-yard completion against St. Louis on Aug. 17 but bounced back quickly. “That's how I've always been in the past. I haven't been a nervous guy because when you get out there and be nervous as a corner especially, for me, I just play a lot tighter. And that's not good as a corner.”
There are no games scheduled for today.