Packers Sign Top Pick Raji
Next game: Saturday, August 15th vs. Cleveland
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) -- The Green Bay Packers signed first-round draft pick B.J. Raji on Friday, ending the defensive lineman's nearly two-week training camp holdout.
General manager Ted Thompson did not disclose terms Friday. Citing two NFL sources it did not identify, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Raji signed a five-year, $28.5 million deal that included just under $18 million in guaranteed money.
The signing means the Packers have their two top defensive picks in camp after earlier signing linebacker Clay Matthews III, picked No. 26 out of Southern Cal.
Matthews is expected to play outside linebacker in the Packers' new 3-4 defensive alignment. Raji, a former Boston College defensive tackle, was drafted ninth overall and is expected to start at defensive end, though he may also play at nose tackle.
His holdout was the longest involving a Packers draft pick since offensive lineman Ross Verba missed 22 days of training camp in 1997.
Raji is not expected to play in the Packers' preseason opener Saturday against Cleveland at Lambeau Field.
"To play tomorrow is a little far-fetched," Raji said Friday. "But as far as the next preseason game, hopefully I'll be able to play in that game and get a lot of reps. But it's not up to me, it's up to the coaches."
Raji said his contract negotiations took longer than he expected but he faulted neither Packers' management nor his agent. He spent the time working out and trying to stay calm.
"To be honest with you, it was tough. I love football," he said. "The money obviously is good, but football-wise, it doesn't mean too much."
Raji said he planned to be ready for the Aug. 22 preseason game against the Buffalo Bills in Green Bay. He's been working out on his own at Bay View Middle School in Green Bay's Howard-Suamico school district and at Boston College.
He said he was "working on my long-distance running and endurance" which allowed him to take and pass the team's pre-camp conditioning drill Friday. That should help his chances of practicing on Monday, even though coach Mike McCarthy warned that rushing Raji onto the practice field could be counterproductive.
"Anytime you bring in a player this late, you have to be real smart because he's at a whole different level as far as his conditioning" compared to his teammates, McCarthy said.
"(We) need to see what kind of shape he's in," the coach added. "So, that's something we're going to have to evaluate."
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)