If his serious hamstring injury from a season ago is completely healed, former Green Bay Packers linebacker Desmond Bishop can still be an effective three-down player with the ability to start right away on the inside of either a 3-4 or 4-3 defense.
Released by the Packers Monday, Bishop is now a free agent capable of signing with any team he wishes.
Equally confident in their depth at inside linebacker and worried about the long-term health of the hamstring, the Packers made the decision to cut Bishop loose, per Ty Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. His release came on the heels of a report from ESPN Milwaukee's Jason Wilde a week earlier that had the Packers attempting to deal Bishop before an eventual parting of ways.
The 28-year-old Bishop will now have a chance to prove he's still a starter in the NFL, given teams like what they see in medical check-ups of his hamstring.
Bishop ruptured his right hamstring during the Packers' first preseason game last August and was eventually placed on season-ending injured reserve.
The injury wasn't a simple strain of the muscle fibers, which occurs frequently in all levels of sports. Instead, Bishop tore his hamstring tendon off the pelvis, a considerably more serious recovery to deal with.
Luckily for Bishop, he'll have over 12 months between the time of injury and the start of the 2013 season, which offers ample time to rehab the injury fully. Still, teams will want to perform extensive testing on the hamstring to protect against buying damaged goods.
If his medicals come back clean, Bishop must still be considered a starting-quality inside linebacker in the NFL.
Mostly a backup and special teams player for the Packers early in his career, Bishop used an injury to Nick Barnett in 2010 to take a starting job and run with it.
After Barnett was placed on injured reserve, the former sixth-round pick would go on to start 12 regular-season games and all four postseason games for the Super Bowl-winning Packers. Bishop tallied 103 tackles, three sacks, eight passes defensed and two forced fumbles.
His tackle of Philadelphia Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson late in the NFC Wild Card round saved a certain go-ahead touchdown, and Bishop also recovered a fumble in the second half of Super Bowl XLV. Both were season-changing plays.
The advanced stats painted the picture of a developing star at inside linebacker.
According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Bishop finished 2010 with the third highest overall grade among inside linebackers. His pass-rushing productivity was the second highest at the position after registering 17 total pressures on 69 pass-rushing snaps.
In fact, he received positive grades from PFF in all areas of the game, including pass-rushing, run defense and coverage.
For the time being, it appeared that Bishop was blossoming into one of the game's better all-around inside linebackers.
The next season wasn't as kind to Bishop, with his ranking at PFF dropping from No. 3 to 20 among inside linebackers and his coverage and run-stopping numbers both free-falling.
But it's also worth noting that 2011 wasn't kind to most everyone on the Packers defense. Green Bay would end the season giving up more passing yards than any defense in NFL history up to that point.
Despite the defense's struggles as a whole, Bishop still recorded 115 tackles, two forced fumbles and 18 pressures, including five sacks. And he was one of just five defensive starters in Green Bay to finish with a positive overall grade for the season.
The opportunity to help the Packers rebound in 2012 was stolen away when his hamstring tore off the bone during the next preseason.
Bishop hasn't played a full NFL game since January of 2012, a considerable stretch of time away from the field. He's also been unable to participate in any of the Packers offseason workouts, including OTAs and mandatory minicamps, because of the hamstring.
According to Dunne, Bishop maintains that he'll be "100 percent" for training camp—wherever that may be—despite a slight hamstring strain suffered in his rehab.
"It's definitely a serious injury," Bishop told Dunne of August's rupture. "But I definitely hit all the points I was supposed to hit as far as getting healthy. But the tear is 100 percent. I can do anything and everything."
If Bishop is 100 percent, and he can "do anything and everything" like he claims, the bones-dry free-agent market just gained arguably its best player.
When healthy, Bishop can provide starting-level production in all three areas of playing inside linebacker, whether it's stopping the run, pressuring the quarterback or dropping in coverage. He's a 238-pound thumper in the running game and few are better blitzing through the A-gap and getting to the quarterback.
Expect Bishop to make the rounds for teams over the coming days and weeks. He'll need to prove on the training table that the hamstring isn't a long-term concern.
But in terms of what he brings on the field, Bishop is still capable of playing all three downs as a starting inside linebacker for a number of teams in the NFL.
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