GREEN BAY – Daryn Colledge insists there are no hard feelings. He’s happy for his old pal T.J. Lang, happy with his own lot in life and in football with the Arizona Cardinals. He may not always have been the most appreciated guy ever to play for the Green Bay Packers, but he says he will always appreciate his time with them – and what he accomplished during that time.
So as Colledge prepped to return to Lambeau Field for his first regular-season game as a visitor – he’d already been back in the preseason last year – he did so with fond memories and without any bitterness over the team making no effort to re-sign him as an unrestricted free agent in March 2011.
“This business is one of those ones that it never goes exactly how you want it to go or think it will go, but I had a great time there. My time was special there,” Colledge said in a conference call with Wisconsin reporters Wednesday. “I won a lot of games, went to the playoffs three times and won a championship. I have no regrets about the things I did there.
“I feel like I came in and did the things I was asked to do. I never missed a single game. I showed up to work every single day. I didn't always do the best job, but I felt like the team knew exactly who I was. I came to work every single day and they knew that's what they were going to get.”
Colledge played in all 80 regular-season games during his five years with the Packers, starting 76 of them, and he’s yet to miss a game with the Cardinals, either. He missed only a handful of practices while in Green Bay, never missed a game, and while he might not have been the best starting left guard the team has fielded over the past 30 years or so, he certainly wasn’t the worst.
“Daryn College is, I’d probably classify him as the ultimate blue-collar guy. Shoot, I don’t know if he’s ever really missed practices, never missed a game. You could always count on Daryn,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy told Arizona reporters in his conference call with them. “(He was a) good teammate, well-liked in the locker room. He was an excellent professional for us.”
The Cardinals certainly liked what they saw, signing Colledge to a five-year, $27.5 million deal that included a $7.5 million signing bonus and is paying him another $3.8 million in salary and bonus money this season.
The Packers, meanwhile, had no problem letting him walk and promoted Lang to start at left guard upon Colledge’s departure. This summer, the Packers inked Lang to a five-year, $22.06 million extension that included a $5.5 million signing bonus.
“I'm excited for T.J. and I'm excited about the opportunities I had there, but I'm also excited about my opportunities here in Arizona,” Colledge said. “I'm glad to be with these guys, but again it'll be great to come back to Green Bay. It's a special place to play.”
Lang and Colledge are different players. Colledge was athletic but sometimes lacked the requisite physicality or nastiness a guard, having been a college left tackle. Lang, meanwhile, isn’t the same athlete but is tough and can get ugly when he needs to.
“I always thought T.J. was a solid player,” Colledge said. “Obviously, they gave him a nice contract this offseason. I think it’s well deserved. They’re obviously excited about how well he’s doing, and I’m excited for him. I think he’s a good player, and hopefully he’s a staple there for a long time.”
Asked how he thought Colledge had performed for him, Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt replied: “I think last year was a tough year because of the lockout and not having an offseason,” said of Colledge. “He got better as the year progressed learning the system, but he’s really done a nice job for us this year. I’d say he’s been our most consistent lineman and has done a good job in a leadership role with those guys.”
Colledge got in on the ground floor of the Packers’ rebuilding project, joining the team as a second-round pick from Boise State in 2006, McCarthy’s first year as coach. One of three offensive linemen drafted that year by general manager Ted Thompson (Jason Spitz in the third round and Tony Moll in the fifth were the others), he’s now working on helping the Cardinals rebuild themselves.
“I came here and I knew it was going to be a little bit of a rebuilding process. We knew we had a bunch of young guys coming in. There was going to be some challenges,” said Colledge, whose last game with the Packers was Super Bowl XLV. “Obviously with the injuries this year, we're not exactly where we want to be. We finished up last season how we wanted to. We won seven of the last nine games and just missed the playoffs. We thought this year was going to be that year.
“We still have half the season left to go and we need to step up, but we have a tough schedule ahead of us. This team is in a situation where it can kind of falter or not, but I think in Green Bay we went (6-10) one year (2008), then the next year made the playoffs (2009) and next year won the Super Bowl (2010). So it's one of those things where you have to hit your stride at the right time and have the right guys in the right situation.
“We're going to need to have a good game this weekend against you guys. We need to come out of the bye week, get healthy and get a couple of our guys back, and start getting the train rolling again."
Listen to Jason Wilde every weekday from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on “Green & Gold Today” on 540 ESPN, and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jasonjwilde.