blocking his way into history

On April 29, 2006, Paul Tagliabue, in one of his last acts as an NFL commissioner, announced that the NFL draft was open at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. The Houston Texans were the first pick, picking defensive end Mario Williams of North Carolina. The New Orleans Saints followed by snatching back Reggie Bush, who starred at Southern Cal, and then picked the Tennessee Titans quarterback Vince Young of Texas.

In all, 255 players were taken into the two-day draft. Today, only one of them is still on the NFL roster. Marcedes Lewis, the star of the UCLA tights, was the 28th player selected in the first round of the 2006 draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars. When the Green Bay Packers camp opens at the end of next month, the 89th player will make league history. He will tie Tony Gonzalez and Jason Witten’s longest career to a tight end, as he begins his 17th season.

To put that into perspective, the Packers picked quarterback AJ Hawk with the fifth overall pick in the same 2006 draft. Hawk, who had a solid career, retired for six years.

Seventeen’s careers are generally reserved for star players, all kinds of perennial professionals, and many of them end up in the Hall of Fame when they finally close the nails. Mercedes Lewis may be the most over-the-top veteran in the league’s seventeen-year history. It has only been voted for one Pro Bowl (2010), and has never been a professional first team. However, he has played through his twelve years and three decades with the Jaguars, and is about to embark on his fifth campaign with the Pack.

Green Bay signed Lewis to a one-year contract in 2018. He played in all sixteen games that season, collecting exactly three assists total. However, the Packers re-signed him to another one-year deal in 2019, another in 2020, and then a two-year deal in 2021. He turns 38. What is the secret?

It is not a mystery to his coaches nor to anyone who has ever played on the same team with him. He’s the poster child for hard work, low ego, and locker room leadership. You see, Lewis’ job is to block. And there have been a few who have been better at it over the past two decades. Block gadgets rarely get headlines or admired and admired by their fans, but the team understands their critical value. That’s why there has always been a place for Marsdis Louis.

A massive human with a height of over six feet, six and 267 pounds, the California native is known to his mates as the Big Dog. Lewis not only excels at blocking, he loves it. “The way I play the tight end position,” he said in an OTA recently. I don’t necessarily evade people. I put people in the ground. So, I’m the one imposing this pain.”

Here you are. The ideal mentality of the barrier. Let quarterbacks, running backs, receivers, and even other tight ends enjoy the glory, making light reels. It is content with rating a potential player to clear the way for someone else to run first, or throw for a score. He’s also a strength in the locker room. His peers often indicated his willingness to publicly escalate to fire or lull troops as needed.

The delicious irony is that Lewis does his job consistently well, and defenses tend to view him as just a member of the offensive line, forgetting that he’s a qualified recipient. Green Bay coaches have noticed this, of course, and last season they started calling plays that are designed to get Big Dog out of a block and jump into the flat, where he is inevitably wide open. The team especially liked this play in the third and short. In 2021, Lewis actually had 23 assists, ten of which resulted in his first. Is there anything more amusing for Packer fans than watching the Big Dog swerve with the ball, and begin pounding defenders, as many are sloughed off like flies off a horse.

General managers love it for its durability. He never suffered a major injury. In only two of his first sixteen seasons, he missed more than one match. “It’s hard work,” he says of his off-season adaptive show, much of which includes mixed martial arts. “I feel like when you work your ass up, you put yourself in a position to have a little luck (with injuries).”

Regarding the longevity record for tight ends, Lewis smiles and says “This year I’m going to tie the record. It’d be nice to break it, and then I’ll think, OK, I’ve done it. Eighteen (seasons) is kind of a bazaar.” His last contract will expire after this season. To break the record, someone will need to return it for another campaign.

If the salary cap allowed, I think the Packers would be number one.

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