GREEN BAY – Charlie Peprah was leaving Lambeau Field for the last time Wednesday, having just been informed by the Green Bay Packers he was being cut on the eve of training camp. The veteran safety was on his way to his car in the players parking lot when a group of unwitting fans hollered at him through the fence, looking for an autograph.
“I was carrying some boxes,” Peprah said in a phone interview later Wednesday afternoon. “I said, ‘You know I just got released. I’m not sure you still want it.' News travels fast.”
Indeed, after starting 25 games over the past two seasons as an injury replacement for Morgan Burnett in 2010 and Nick Collins in 2011, the Packers released Peprah after he failed his physical in advance of Thursday's first practice of camp. Peprah had not practiced during the offseason organized team activity practices or the team’s two-practice minicamp because of a knee injury.
“It caught me off guard, I was surprised,” Peprah said. “I didn’t pass my physical right away, so I’m assuming that had something to do with it. They might’ve been leaning this way anyway. I’ve never been in this situation before, coming into camp beat up a little bit. I didn’t know how they’d handle it. I guess I know now.”
The move means that either the club is confident in its younger options – second-year man M.D. Jennings, who took most of the first-team reps this offseason with Peprah sidelined, or rookie fourth-round pick Jerron McMillian – or the coaches intend to play veteran cornerback Charles Woodson at the position more than they’ve let on.
“I didn’t see a way how they would do that,” Peprah said of being cut. “Our depth is already kind of low as far as experience. But it’s a business.”
Peprah, who registered 96 tackles, five interceptions (including one that he returned for a touchdown) and forced one fumble in 16 games (14 starts) last season, didn’t rule out a return to the Packers, having come back once before. Peprah, picked up on waivers from the New York Giants at the end of training camp in 2006, spent three seasons with the team before being released with an injury settlement on Sept. 6, 2009.
He caught on with the Atlanta Falcons for two games during the 2009 season, then re-signed with the Packers in April 2010. When Burnett suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 4, he took over alongside Collins and played 18 games with 13 starts (including playoffs) for the Super Bowl XLV champions. When Collins suffered his career-threatening neck injury in Week 2 last season, Peprah started the rest of the season in his place. Collins was released this offseason after deciding to try to resume his NFL career after having spinal fusion surgery.
Asked about Peprah’s status in his pre-training camp press conference earlier Wednesday, coach Mike McCarthy said, “Charlie is actually one of the individuals I’m waiting for more information. He’s currently going through his physical.”
Peprah sometimes drew the ire of Packers fans but said he will miss them, as well as his teammates and coaches.
“Obviously there are people who aren’t fans of me, but I did my job and I thought I did it pretty well. I wasn’t Nick Collins.” Peprah said of the three-time Pro Bowl selection. “I was hoping to finish my career here – the fan base is unbelievable, the organization was great.
“To say I won a Super Bowl, looking back, that’ll be awesome. It’s hard to say that right now, but looking back in five or six years, that’ll be great to be able to say that. Words can’t describe how I feel about my time here. The appreciation I have for the fans, my teammates and the coaches… that’s going to be the toughest – (Desmond) Bishop and (Jarrett) Bush and Tramon (Williams) – the friends I’ll leave behind. I’m definitely going to miss the fans and my teammates the most.
“It’s tough to leave your compadres. You have a bond with those guys, and you hate to move on. Who knows? I could come back. I don’t have any grudges. You never know. But it’s definitely disappointing.”
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