The start of OTAs is a time of wonder: free agency and the draft have brought change to every NFL franchise, fans have begun believing that their team has shed its flaws, and nearly every player has reportedly "looked good." Which is why the time is right for Desmond Bishop to announce his candidacy for 2013 Defensive Player of the Year.
So when Bishop returned to Green Bay last month, he reopened that [a notebook containing his list of personal season goals], grabbed a pen and raised the bar. He hasn't told anyone about this. Not his coaches, not his wife. But draped over those same goals from 2012 is one more line for 2013.
2013 Defensive MVP. Why not?
"Seriously," Bishop says, "why not? I know I'm capable."
When a player who isn't on the national radar says he's going to win one of the big year end awards, the generally public's natural response is to laugh at him. This goes double for a player coming off a serious injury.
But this totally misses the point. Bishop, like every NFL player, believes he can push himself to great heights. Heck, Jarrett Bush still thinks he can be a starter in the NFL. Professional athletes fuel themselves with that kind of confidence. It doesn't need to be realistic to be justifiable. Rather, to validate itself, it only needs to motivate Bishop to work harder.
While Bishop won't be winning Defensive Player of the Year, it's not as though he's never played close to an elite level. In 2010, Bishop became a wrecking ball after stepping in for the injured Nick Barnett. Pro Football Focus gave Bishop a 24.6 rating for the season (that includes a 4.4 bump for the playoffs and nothing for the three games prior to Barnett's injury). For comparison, Charles Woodson earned a 33.3 rating for his 2009 Defensive Player of the Year season. While 8.7 is a significant gap, it does illustrate how Bishop isn't that far removed from what is generally considered defensive MVP worthy.
And this is ultimately what makes the public reaction to Bishop's 2013 goals so exasperating. His contributions have apparently gone unnoticed despite playing one of the biggest roles on a team that won a championship. Similarly, the masses have failed to consider how his absence in 2012 hurt the team. If Bishop is truly healthy again, he's far more than a bit player. On the contrary, he may be the Packers' best defensive player after Clay Matthews. At the minimum, Bishop is a player the Packers sorely missed last year and should give them a sizeable boost in 2013.
Jason Hirschhorn covers the Green Bay Packers for Acme Packing Co. He has previously written for Lombardi Ave, College Hoops Net, LiveBall Sports, and the List Universe. He is also currently a senior writer for Beats Per Minute, an indie-music webzine. Follow him on Twitter: @JBHirschhorn