He did see the off-season report, the one that claimed he was out of shape. Sitting at his locker, B.J. Raji laughs when it's brought up. The Green Bay Packers nose tackle is not going to book his photo spread for "Muscle & Fitness" anytime soon, but he's also not concerned. "I think I'm in pretty good shape," he said. "I'm not going to say I was in tip-top shape coming back, but that's what the off-season's for. So everybody came back, and I know those reports got out there. I can't worry about that. "I only worry about three or four people and that's Ted (Thompson), (Mike) McCarthy, Dom (Capers) and 'Trgo' (position coach Mike Trgovac). If anybody else has something to say, that's their business." Being in shape should be important to Raji. For him, this is a contract year. Aaron Rodgers is paid, Clay Matthews is paid. Raji would figure to be next. He says he wants to be in Green Bay long term and "wouldn't want to be anywhere else." So as Thompson and the Packers crunch the numbers and search for the right price, Raji is working on getting off of blocks this off-season. He has a new running mate, too. In 2013, his fifth season in the pros, the 26-year-old Raji wants to "dominate the game." "I want to get back to the Pro Bowl," said Raji on his individual goals. "I think that I have that ability. And I want to help other guys get to the Pro Bowl who haven't been there. I want to obviously help us get back to being a top-five defense. And I just want to dominate the game, from Week 1 to whenever we're done playing and just have an impact in every football game." That goal began with a meeting. Trgovac, assistant director of pro personnel Tim Terry and Raji all met to discuss where, specifically, Raji needed to improve this season. Trgovac told Raji that 2012 was his best season as a pro. But after analyzing the film, they realized Raji needed to do a better job of shedding blocks. Many times, Raji explained, he'd have a guard "right in the quarterback's lap" or "right in the hole" and couldn't shake him loose. "For some reason I'm not disengaging as well as I have," Raji said. "So that's a big emphasis for me — clearing the blocking and being able to make more plays." The concept seems very JV. All defensive linemen, the day they put on shoulder pads, are taught how to get rid of blockers. But in the pros — through the flood of different techniques, game-to-game schemes and play-to-play checklists — fundamentals can be ignored. Trgovac emphasizes this constantly, Raji assured. But if the player himself doesn't emphasize it, tackles for loss will be rare. Last off-season, quickness off the line was his focus. A boxing regimen at a gym in New Jersey supplied Raji with renewed burst. Spring off the line was not a problem for Raji in 2012. Finishing was. In 14 games, he had 26 tackles and no sacks.
B.J. Raji looks to cash in by shedding more blockers
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel | Jun 1