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Packers free safety Darnell Savage remains in the league’s concussion protocol but practiced on a limited basis Thursday.

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GREEN BAY — Upon arriving back in Titletown this summer via a trade with the Houston Texans, Randall Cobb’s new Green Bay Packers teammates — many of whom had been with him during his first go-round with the team — noticed his overjoyed mood.

“It’s funny, my teammates said, ‘You act like you just got out of prison.’ And I said, ‘Well, you know ...’” Cobb said at the time, smiling broadly. “I’m very, very excited to be here.”

So is Whitney Mercilus, who joined the team on Thursday after being released by the Texans earlier in the week. So, shortly after he’d signed his contract with the Packers — and after he’d bumped into Cobb, now his teammate again, in the locker room — someone asked the ex-Texans edge rusher whether he’d seen what Cobb had said a couple months earlier.

Or, more accurately, tried to ask him. The savvy 10-year veteran that he is, Mercilus — having spent a decade with the Texans and made the playoffs five times, but never the Super Bowl — started laughing, shutting down the question before it had even fully been asked.

“We’re not going to walk into that one,” Mercilus said, still laughing. “But, yeah, I heard. I heard because I was at the Texans (at the time). Man, I enjoyed my time there. The fans they embraced me ever since I got there. It was great.

“Everybody can see it’s more in a rebuild phase (in Houston). That’s not the direction that I wanted to go. I want to win, I want to win now. So that wasn’t going to get me the best opportunity.”

Ultimately, Mercilus decided that best opportunity would be with the Packers after drawing interest from other teams (Kansas City, Pittsburgh and others). In fact, he was even willing to take less money than others offered to do play in Green Bay, he said.

“It’s true. It wasn’t really that much (less), but it’s not even about the money at this point. It’s more so trying to get a championship, trying to contribute as much as I can,” Mercilus said. “For guys like me on the back half of their career, the best option I thought was coming here with the winning mentality. I just want to be a ‘dog’ and add to that.”

And the Packers are hoping he can add to that immediately, starting Sunday against the Washington Football team at Lambeau Field.

“You guys shouldn’t be shocked when he is out there rushing the quarterback (on Sunday),” outside linebackers coach Mike Smith said Thursday evening, after spending extra time working with Mercilus 1-on-1 giving him what defensive coordinator Joe Barry called a “crash course” in the defense.

“The thing about him, after 10 years in the league, this isn’t his first rodeo. He knows what he’s doing. He knows how to rush. It’s nice having an older guy like that — I love coaching my young guys, don’t get me wrong — but he knows what he’s doing.”

Just how much the 31-year-old Mercilus can contribute against Washington remains to be seen, especially given the whirlwind he experienced upon arriving in town on Wednesday night but not officially joining the roster until Thursday afternoon, shortly before practice.“It was great to get him. I’m happy he’s here. He’s had a heck of a career,” Barry said. “He didn’t even make it to our meetings today with (taking) the physical, (signing) the contract, but made it out to practice. Great addition. We’re really excited he’s here.”Asked if the 6-foot-4, 261-pound Mercilus can be ready for Washington, Barry replied, “I hope so. I think in situations like that — not by any means to simplify the job that those guys up front have to do — but sometimes it’s a little bit easier for a guy in the front to play a little sooner. We just went through this with (inside linebacker) Jaylon (Smith) when he got here. It’s almost impossible for an inside linebacker or a safety. If you sign a guy on Thursday and he has to play on Sunday, those positions are hard.”

Said head coach Matt LaFleur: “I think a lot of it’s just going to be dependent on how fast he can acclimate himself with our terminology. You never want to put a guy out there if he doesn’t know what he’s doing. There’s certainly more to it than just go rush the quarterback.”That said, with Preston Smith set to potentially miss the first game of his seven-year NFL career with an oblique injury he suffered against Chicago that kept him out of practice for a second straight day, getting Mercilus up to speed to play is clearly the goal. With two-time Pro Bowl edge rusher Za’Darius Smith on injured reserve following back surgery, the only other outside linebackers on the roster are Rashan Gary, Jonathan Garvin and La’Darius Hamilton.

“One thing about me, I know how to adapt really easy, do what’s expected and understand the culture and all that,” said Mercilus, who finished his decade run in Houston with 57 career sacks in 134 career regular-season games, second in team history to ex-University of Wisconsin star J.J. Watt (101). “I’m just grateful to be here; (I’ve) been accepted with open arms. I love it. The energy, it’s amazing.

“Honestly, it just pumps new life (into you) because I’ve only see the same four walls for years. To see something different is pretty cool.”

“I feel revitalized. The youngness in me is back because a new environment. You feel the vibe of the team, it’s not a heavy cloud or anything like that. I probably can get another five more (years) in this thing, to be honest.”

Extra points

Left tackle David Bakhtiari took part in his second straight practice, although it appears unlikely he’ll be activated for Sunday’s game against Washington. “It’s just going to be a collaboration between our medical staff, our coaching staff and David,” LaFleur said. “You’ve got to make sure he’s confident when he goes out there. And I think you get that confidence through your practice reps.” … Safety Darnell Savage (concussion) took part in practice on a limited basis, an encouraging sign that he could clear the league’s concussion protocols and be able to play. … Wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling (hamstring) once again did not practice and remains on injured reserve. Asked if MVS is close to returning, LaFleur replied, “I think he’s coming along. But I don’t have much update.” … With the Packers wearing their throwback uniforms, LaFleur was asked if he’d be dressing up in the coaching fashion of the 1950s, meaning a suit and tie on the sideline. “I definitely won’t be wearing that,” LaFleur replied, smiling. “I promise you.”

This article originally ran on madison.com.

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