No worries: For Gary, it’s time to cut it loose

Bill Huber

It’s time for Rashan Gary to be unleashed.

Not necessarily by the Green Bay Packers, who have been getting superb production from the tandem of Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith.

Rather, it’s time for Gary to be unleashed by himself.

“My big thing with Gary is his self-confidence,” outside linebackers coach Mike Smith said this week. “Not worrying about making a mistake as much as making a big play. Go for the big play. You can’t be half-pregnant. I think at times, he’s so worried about making a mistake where, ‘Gary, you’re one of the best athletes on the field, if not the best athlete on the field.’ So, he makes some great plays but he’s worried, ‘I don’t want to mess this up.’ I just tell him to go. That’s my big thing with him.”

(Note: Smith's full comment is in the video.)

It’s a message Gary has heard and is working to implement.

“That’s something that I’m trying to work on,” he said. “Me, I want everything to be perfect. Every time I’m on the field, I want to do my job to the best of my ability, but also he wants me to loosen up, have fun and make some plays. Don’t be scared of messing up more than making a big play. Every day, I’m getting better and better. Now, it’s time to loosen up.”

The Packers used the 12th pick of the draft on Gary, whom Smith believed was the best edge-rushing prospect in the draft class – better even than San Francisco’s Nick Bosa, who went No. 2 overall. Bosa’s been by far the better player thus far but Gary has shown up at times. Officially, he has one sack and one quarterback hit. His impact runs deeper, though. According to Pro Football Focus, 111 edge defenders have played at least 20 percent of their pass-defending snaps. In that group, Gary ranks 45th in pass-rushing productivity, a metric that combines sacks, hits and hurries per pass-rushing snap.

“I couldn’t be more proud of him,” Smith said. “Me and Pet (defensive coordinator Mike Pettine) were talking about it earlier, just the strides he’s making. Sometimes, it’s hard to see but when we do our stuff, it’s very detailed and there’s more than just putting your hand on the ground and rushing the quarterback. There’s all the sets and all the stuff we always talk about. I like where he’s headed. He’s going to be a good one.”

Gary is from Plainfield, N.J., but played his collegiate ball at Michigan. This week, the Packers will play the Detroit Lions. Does this game mean anything extra?

“I’m just happy to be part of the Green Bay Packers, man,” Gary said. “We’re 4-1 and going into this week that’s what we’re focused on, the Lions.”

It seemed as if Gary was biting his tongue. Was he?

“Nah,” Gary said, “that’s me chewing some gum.”