Green Bay Packers

Whitney Mercilus Has Found A Second Life in Green Bay

Photo Credit: Kirby Lee (USA TODAY Sports)

Whitney Mercilus spent the first nine years of his career with the Houston Texans, but he was released in the middle of this season. The Green Bay Packers swooped in and scooped up Mercilus, who had plenty of other suitors. Now he has a second life in a new city, and Green Bay will need him to run with it.

Nobody is expecting Mercilus to come in and raise all holy hell for the opposing offense. At age 31 and on the back nine of his career, those expectations would be foolish. However, with the current state of the edge-rusher spot for the Packers, Mercilus should have an opportunity to have an immediate impact. His track record indicates he’s the second-best healthy option outside of Rashan Gary.

Green Bay is scrambling at the moment with the latest injury to Preston Smith. An oblique injury has him on the wrong side of the practice report entering Week 7 against the Washington Football Team. Za’Darius Smith is already on injured reserve and may not return this season. There was a need at edge rusher, resulting in Mercilus coming to the land of cheese to try and hold down the fort until Preston Smith gets back.

Mercilus had three sacks in six games this year for the Texans before his release. Not too shabby for a defense and a roster that is devoid of talent. Playing for a team with no direction and little chance of success can suck the energy out of anyone. It’s perhaps one of the reasons Mercilus looked as giddy as he did in green and gold following the Packers’ practice on Thursday.

Mercilus now realizes that not every franchise has the same vibes.

“Not each franchise is equal in regards to everybody loves to do their different thing,” Mercilus said. “With that being said, I’m just grateful to be here, been accepted with open arms, love it. The energy, it’s amazing. Honestly, it’s like, I don’t know, it just pumps new life [into you] because I’ve only see the same four walls for years and to see something different is pretty cool.”

Houston has been a dumpster fire this year, starting 1-5 after a 4-12 campaign last season. Joining the Packers must feel like an alternate universe. There is something to be said about a veteran player going from a dead-and-gone situation to a championship contender. For Mercilus, that’s precisely what happened. And he thinks there’s a difference in his energy from the change of scenery.

“That definitely contributes to it,” he said. “But also the mentality as far as from top down. I’m talking about tippity-top all the way down. Everybody’s on the same page. … When you’ve got the mentality like that, that you just know you’re being appreciated and they’re doing everything to invest in you and you want to invest back into that. To experience something like that is awesome.”

Don’t confuse this for what it’s not.

Green Bay doesn’t view this as some feel-good story to add a veteran who wants a ring. They need Mercilus to step up and play a role on this defense. His video and his numbers this year support the notion that there is still plenty of gas left in the tank. He could do wonders on the edge for Green Bay’s defense. The Texans viewed him as expendable, and Green Bay viewed him as valuable.

Packers head coach Matt LaFleur certainly sees it this way. His teams have faced Mercilus before, and LaFleur recalls his impact.

“I’ve been on teams that have gone against him, and he’s always been a problem to play against,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said. “So, I think we’re pretty fortunate to get a guy of his caliber in at this time of the season.”

When asked whether Mercilus would be thrown into the mix Sunday against Washington, LaFleur flirted with the idea and didn’t rule it out. It differs from when Jaylon Smith was signed mid-week just two weeks back, and LaFleur said he would not suit up when the Packers took on the Cincinnati Bengals during that week. Why might it be different now? There’s an immediate need for bodies on the edge.

Mercilus feels he has a second life now that he’s in Green Bay. The vibes surrounding the situation are as cool as can be. The Packers need them to translate onto the field, and they may ask for the former linebacker turned edge rusher to play a larger role for a guy who is new to the building.

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