Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 10/5/13
Two three years ago B.J. Raji wouldn't have been cool with this. When the Green Bay Packers defense turns to nickel to dime he's been on the sideline. Powerless. With a chance to pad his stats — in ahem a contract year — the defensive end is on hold. Raji insists this isn't difficult not even with millions of dollars at stake. "You know what? No no" Raji said. "To do that you have to be secure in yourself as a player and I am. I believe I'm one of the best in the league." Maybe you've noticed. Through three games there's been less Raji. He hasn't been featured as a pass rusher giving way to Mike Daniels Datone Jones and Mike Neal. The Packers for now have significantly reduced Raji's snaps. After 51 snaps in the base-heavy season opener he has played 32 and 31 snaps. He isn't being used as a penetrating disruptive force. Repeatedly Raji says he's fine with this. The player who stepped in the middle of the Aaron Rodgers/Mike McCarthy firefight is trying to help the Packers in new ways. "It's funny man. The older I get I understand" Raji said. "I'm obviously trying to be the best at my position within the scheme but I'm trying to grow more to be a better teammate be a better leader because I understand the bigger goal....My snaps are cut down. But I can still grow in other areas and do more than just plays on the field." The stat line is underwhelming. Three games in Raji has a grand total of five tackles no sacks. To him there's perception and there's reality as a defensive lineman. In this role there's a good chance you won't hear Raji's name called often in 2013. You won't see sacks. You probably won't see much dancing in the end zone. You will see Raji used as a plug against the run emerging from a pile-up with a wag of the finger. This week Green Bay faces a pair of interior linemen given free rein to shoot upfield. Not so in the Packers' 3-4 scheme. Raji promises "I'm OK with that." If the final outcome is a Super Bowl he adds "I'd take that trade any day." This was a point of maturation acceptance for a player who totaled 6½ sacks in 2010. "It's cool to hear your name on TV and everything" Raji said. "But I'm more concerned about how this organization and this coaching staff and these scouts view me as opposed to outside perception. I've been blessed. I went to a Pro Bowl I won a Super Bowl. I've experienced the individual stuff. "I've also been there when we've lost close games in the season. I'd rather my role kind of be split among other guys and we win more games than me being out there and us coming up short in the end." This is why Raji says he respects players like Geno Atkins Haloti Ngata Vince Wilfork. "They can't just jet upfield" Raji said. "If they get reached they have to get hands on them. You can't just swim. Those guys the Wilforks Justin Smith those guys they get a lot of respect around the league." Seeing Raji play peacemaker on the sideline at Cincinnati shouldn't be a surprise either. He's looking to speak up and step in this season — especially at his position.
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