At the rate he’s going, Jamari Lattimore’s next position could be safety. And if the Green Bay Packers coaches tell him that’s what he’s doing, well, then that’s what he’ll be doing.
After making the team as an undrafted free agent last season – and making the cut despite making the difficult transition from college defensive end in a 4-3 to NFL outside linebacker in a 3-4 – Lattimore arrived for offseason work this spring to learn that he would be moving inside. It was not a request.
“They tell you that’s where you’re going,” Lattimore said with a chuckle Monday. “I guess they wake up and want to switch you, so you’re going to switch. No questions asked – and I’m not going to ask any.”
“I didn’t look at it as a bad thing.”
As it turns out, it might be a very good thing for Lattimore. With the team adding Nick Perry with its first-round pick and with another undrafted rookie free agent – Dezman Moses – stealing the outside linebacker show this year, Lattimore’s best chance to stay on the roster is at inside linebacker, where he’s in the mix with D.J. Smith and Robert Francois behind starters Desmond Bishop and A.J. Hawk.
While Lattimore’s greatest value is on special teams – he played just 30 snaps of defense last season, according to ProFootballFocus.com, with 18 of them coming against Oakland on Dec. 11 – he has flashed his ability in camp while working inside.
While Bishop was out with a calf injury, Lattimore worked with the No. 2 defense at “Mack” inside linebacker behind Smith and looked solid; then, during the Family Night Scrimmage, he had a couple of eye-catching plays, stopping running backs James Starks and Alex Green for short gains on a pair of running plays.
“I think Jamari is a little more natural inside linebacker than outside,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “I look for him to really take a step in the special teams. He’s also another individual from Year 1 to Year 2 who’s made a jump.”
On Monday, Lattimore, who is listed as the No. 3 Mack linebacker and the No. 3 right outside linebacker on the Packers’ depth chart, was asked what kind of linebacker he sees when he looks in the mirror.
“Right now it’s an inside guy,” he replied. “But I want to keep it half and half.”
In order to play inside, Lattimore, who had played outside linebacker at Dodge City (Kan.) Community College and defensive end at Middle Tennessee State, had to bulk up from the 230 pounds he weighed last season. He credits a more intense weightlifting regimen and his girlfriend’s cooking – especially her pasta – for helping him add good weight. He said he’s at 242 pounds now.
"(It's made a) big difference," Lattimore said. “(I have) a lot more oomph and punch when I strike somebody now. I wanted to (add weight) for myself – to feel better on the inside, to hold my own, to stand my ground."
Listen to Jason Wilde every weekday from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on “Green & Gold Today,” and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jasonjwilde.