DALLAS – Cullen Jenkins, the Green Bay Packers’ standout defensive end, has a lot more on his mind than sacking Ben Roethlisberger or his contract status.
Jenkins hasn’t heard from his father, Darome, since around Christmas.
“You get a little worried, you know, you haven’t heard from him at all and you wonder if he’s all right,” Jenkins said on Wednesday during a media session at the team hotel.
The last time Jenkins had talked to his father, Darome was in Hawaii, where he lives for most of the year. Jenkins and his brother, New York Jets defensive tackle Kris Jenkins, are especially close to their father. Cullen said Darome raised the two boys by himself since Cullen was 10 months old.
“Whatever happened with him and my mom, I’m not too sure about, nor do I really care,” he said. “I don’t try to focus on that stuff too much. So, it was us growing up. My dad, he worked a lot to take care of us. And he did a good job of it.”
This has been the latest challenge in what has been a difficult but impressive season for the seventh-year pro out of Central Michigan. Jenkins is playing the last year of a four-year contract and, early in the season, expressed his frustration about the lack of contract talks. When he’s been healthy, he’s been terrific. He finished with a career-high seven sacks despite playing half the season with a broken hand that was protected by a bulky cast and then missed five games – including the last four – with a calf strain. He returned for the wild-card win at Philadelphia and has been full speed the last two weeks, tallying a total of four quarterback hits and a half sack in wins over Atlanta and Chicago.
“I guess I put more belief in myself,” Jenkins said of excelling on the field while dealing with worries about his father off the field. “There’s a lot more things that I can do if I put my mind to them. Different things. I just try to learn from all the experiences and get stronger.”
Defensive line coach Mike Trgovac has seen Jenkins handle the challenges all season. He doesn’t expect anything different in the Super Bowl against Pittsburgh.
“There’s certain players that maybe have some problems like you’re talking about with his dad and the injuries, but when they get on the football field, that’s what they love, that’s what they live for, that’s their life,” said Trgovac, who coached Kris Jenkins while at Carolina. “That’s when they’re able to get into their zone, their own little place. When he gets on that football field, what you can count on is 100 percent. He’s very bright; he doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. You’re going to get 100 percent of him, no matter what the distractions are earlier. I think guys like that, that’s kind of the easy part of what they have to do. They get in there and that’s when they feel the most comfortable.”
Jenkins has a Super Bowl ticket for his dad. Obviously, he hopes that seat doesn’t remain empty on Sunday evening.
“I haven’t figured out if I’ll leave it at will call or not or if I’ll give it to another family member on game day,” he said. “I still haven’t decided all that stuff yet. I’ll figure that out a little later in the week.”
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