At the moment of truth, Jerron McMillian was on the sideline. He played a lot as a rookie - more than 500 snaps - but by the time the Green Bay Packers met the San Francisco 49ers in January, Charles Woodson was in. M.D. Jennings was in. McMillian took part in two plays.

He's not sure if his presence would have changed anything. The Packers were thrashed, 45-31.

Same scenario, 2013, season on the line, the safety wants to be on the field.

"That's the biggest thing I'm working toward right now," he said, "to be out there."

For Green Bay, the safety position clears up next week. This year's NFL draft class is loaded with prospects. From Florida's ball of fire Matt Elam to LSU's athletic Eric Reid to Jonathan Cyprien of Florida International, Green Bay could have options in the first round.

McMillian's reaction if Green Bay does draft a safety early? None. As he said, "What reaction can I have? It's just the process. It's the NFL draft."

Regardless of whether Green Bay adds a safety, the hard-hitting McMillian is gunning for a starting spot, a bigger role in 2013.

"Just compete, just compete," he said. "I need to put myself in a position where I'm accountable."

Being accountable starts with handling a double-edged sword. What got him here also can take a whack at his bank account.

To win the starting job, to last in this league for years, McMillian must figure out a way to be himself in an NFL that's changing. He's a violent player. He throws all 5 feet 11 inches and 203 pounds into harm's way without thinking twice. Since high school, that's been his game.

One collision hinted at the Catch-22 he faces in commissioner Roger Goodell's NFL. Late in a blowout loss at New York, McMillian converged on the Giants' Martellus Bennett in the end zone and caught the bottom of the tight end's chin with his left shoulder. He was flagged, fined $21,000 and effectively stupefied. To McMillian, the rapid-fire play was unavoidable, the product of playing the safety position the right way.

Seconds after the hit, NBC's Cris Collinsworth weighed in, saying "the league's trying to bring the safety in and sometimes it takes money out of the pocket to start changing things."