By SCOTT COTTOS
Micah Hyde spent part of his day off getting a massage. Keeping his body feeling and operating well is a major priority for him.
Things didn’t happen that way for him in 2015-16, his third season in the NFL. It was a new experience for the Green Bay Packers defensive back, who never missed a game while at Fostoria High School or the University of Iowa but did on Thanksgiving night of 2015.
“Last year was brutal,” Hyde said in a phone interview on Tuesday afternoon while taking a break from the team’s preparations for Sunday’s Hall of Fame Game against the Indianapolis Colts to open the league’s preseason in Canton. “I had a quad, a shoulder and a couple of hip pointers. Hopefully this year goes better.”
Even with his ailments, Hyde last season led the 10-6 Packers in punt returns (27 for 5.8-yard average), tied for the lead with three interceptions and ranked seventh with 55 tackles.
His top play likely was a spectacular interception of a pass by the Minnesota Vikings’ Teddy Bridgewater. Under pressure, Bridgewater desperately floated a short throw over the middle with his left (non-passing) hand. Hyde dove to his left and made a backhanded catch with his right hand, pulling the ball into his body as he fell.
How did he manage to do that?
“I still don’t know,” Hyde said. “I was just playing. I’ve seen it on film. Maybe it was just the baseball player in me. Maybe I blacked out. I don’t know.”
All told, though, he said he wasn’t able to be as productive as he would have liked as he kept himself on the field throughout nearly the entire season.
“I couldn’t do what I wanted to do,” he said. “There were a few instances when I probably shouldn’t have been out there.”
The injuries actually started to accumulate even before the start of the regular season. Hyde sustained a neck strain in last year’s exhibition opener against the Philadelphia Eagles. And, after the frustrating regular season, Hyde aggravated a hip in Green Bay’s 26-20 overtime loss to the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC playoffs.
But he’s in good shape now and hopes to keep it that way for the long haul.
“I just want to be able to go out and play freely and just do a little better in everything,” Hyde said.
Hyde actually has done nearly a bit of everything for the Packers since the team took him in the fifth round of the 2013 draft following a senior season at Iowa in which he earned recognition as the Big Ten’s Defensive Back of the Year.
Playing both cornerback and safety in reserve and starting roles, he’s made 169 tackles, intercepted five passes, broken up 15 passes and recovered three fumbles.
He’s also played on most of the Packers’ special teams. Most notably, he’s tied for the team record with three punt returns for touchdowns, including a franchise-longest 93-yarder at Minnesota in his rookie year.
Hyde has been referred to as Green Bay’s “Swiss Army knife,” and he anticipates having the same role this season.
“I’m still all over the place,” he said. “That’s what I like to do.”
Hyde’s versatility could make him a valued player on the open NFL market after he plays out his rookie contract this year. He said he’s “in a good place” with the Packers, but he acknowledged that he doesn’t know what the future might hold. Whatever it might be, he said, isn’t a concern as this season approaches.
“Right now, I’m not even thinking about it,” he said.
Instead, his early-week thoughts were on the Pro Football Hall of Fame weekend. The team will stay in Cleveland, and players will have the opportunity to attend Saturday night’s inductions in Canton. Hyde was not sure whether he would be among those in attendance when former Packers quarterback Brett Favre and former assistant coach Kevin Greene are among the inductees. Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers will introduce Greene, who made five Pro Bowls in his 15-year NFL career.
Hyde wouldn’t know until late in the week how much coach Mike McCarthy planned on playing him and the other veterans against the Colts, but he’s used to sitting out the bulk of most exhibition contests.
When he’s on the field in the preseason, Hyde said, he plays his hardest and enjoys testing himself against unfamiliar competition as opposed to facing his teammates in camp. The degree of intensity changes when he’s on the sideline.
“You’re still in the game mentally,” he said. “You’re trying to help the younger guys out. But it’s also good to be on the sideline talking to guys and letting your body heal, trying to get your body right.”
There is a chance that Hyde may be playing in a different city in 2017, but he appreciates the fact that he’s still in a place where fan interest and enthusiasm are so high that there’s a waiting list of many years to be able to purchase season tickets.
In fact, Lambeau Field was sold out for last weekend’s Family Night practice.
“The fans in Green Bay cheer no matter what,” Hyde said. “Seventy thousand fans for a practice is just ridiculous.”
The Packers made the playoffs in each of Hyde’s first three years with the team. After tough postseason losses to end each season, Hyde said he and the rest of the team are focused on trying to bring “Titletown” its first championship since 2010.
“You can tell the guys in the locker room are like, ‘Let’s just win the Super Bowl.'” he said.
By SCOTT COTTOS