By SCOTT COTTOS
THE REVIEW TIMES
In Micah Hyde’s last season of playing free safety on a regular basis, he was wearing Fostoria High School’s red and black.
He’s returned to that position. Now, though, he’s in the green and gold of the Green Bay Packers.
“I’d be lying to you if I said it wasn’t different,” Hyde said with a chuckle during a phone interview this week. “In high school, you’re just pretty much running around, trying to tackle people. There’s still some of the same thing now, but there’s so many more keys to read and things like that.”
The job now also includes taking on elite athletes such as Marshawn Lynch, who will be among those Hyde and his teammates will try to contain tonight when they visit the Seattle Seahawks for a nationally televised contest to open the NFL’s regular season.
“It’s exciting,” Hyde said. “We can’t wait. A lot of people are talking about it. We just want to go up there and show what we can do.”
As a fifth-round draft choice after an all-Ohio career at Fostoria and all-Big Ten production at Iowa, Hyde showed what he could do last season to the tune of playing regularly and making 55 tackles as the Packers’ slot cornerback and ranking fifth in the NFL in punt returns with a 12.3 average.
But while Hyde was a bright spot in Green Bay’s secondary, the safety positions were a glaring weakness. Shoring up a unit that did not make a single interception last season was a priority for the Packers in the offseason, and one way they addressed it was by drafting Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the first round. Another was by moving Hyde — whose playmaking skills have long been lauded by coach Mike McCarthy — to the back of the defense.
“It was definitely a point of emphasis,” Hyde said of the Packers’ offseason moves at safety. “The coaches said, ‘We need to pick this up and the only way to do that is to create competition.'”
Having played cornerback for all but a few college games in the last five years, Hyde had some adjusting to do.
“I wouldn’t say it’s been the easiest of transitions,” he said. “But I talked a lot with the other safeties and the safeties coach (former NFL player Darren Perry), and it got more smooth just from being in meetings and getting mental reps.”
To this point, Hyde has held off Clinton-Dix’s challenge to be the No. 1 free safety, with veteran Morgan Burnett continuing to start at strong safety. But that doesn’t mean things can’t change or vary.
“The coaches do a good job of rotating guys,” Hyde said. “And we have so many different packages that at any time, anybody could be in.”
If, unlike last season, the Packers get full, healthy seasons out of Pro Bowl-caliber players such as quarterback Aaron Rodgers and linebacker Clay Matthews, they are a consensus choice to be a threat to reach the Super Bowl.
Certainly, Hyde would love to don a championship ring. But that’s something to think about at times other than the present.
“We talk about goals like that in the offseason,” he said. “Right now, our goal is to beat Seattle.”