Weekend wrap: Lattimore's role and more

November, 3, 2013
11/03/13
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – Cut off the dreadlocks and put a No. 55 jersey on his back, and Jamari Lattimore might look a lot like a former Green Bay Packers linebacker.

The way the third-year pro has played the past three games, he’s playing the way Desmond Bishop did in that spot in 2010 and 2011 before injuries set him back.

“He was always so active; he had an attitude playing,” Lattimore said of Bishop, who was released by the Packers and signed with the Minnesota Vikings in the offseason before a knee injury ended his season. “He’s got all the skills. He’ll hit you, and he can cover. What more can you want out of a guy?”

[+] EnlargeJamari Lattimore
Bruce Kluckhohn/USA TODAY SportsThe ability to fill various roles will likely earn LB Jamari Lattimore additional playing time in 2014.
The same could be said of Lattimore in his first three NFL starts. Since taking over for the injured Brad Jones (hamstring) on Oct. 13 against the Baltimore Ravens, Lattimore has combined for 24 tackles (based on the Packers coaches’ film review) and two sacks.

“I spent a lot of time watching Desmond; He always used to tell me that I remind him of him,” Lattimore said. “We talk a lot; we just recently spoke a couple of days ago, and he was very positive about the way [Lattimore has] played.”

At 6-foot-2 and 237 pounds, Lattimore is the same height and just one pound lighter than Bishop.

With Jones set to return for Monday night’s game against the Chicago Bears, defensive coordinator Dom Capers will have to decide whether to use both players plus veteran A.J. Hawk in some kind of rotation. Before his injury, Jones was the every-down inside linebacker who called the defensive signals. Hawk took over in that role, and Lattimore has played along side of Hawk in the base and nickel – but not the dime – packages.

“I think we’ll take the approach that Brad is healthy now, and we’ll insert Brad in and if there’s going to be a change from there, then those decisions will be collectively discussed with Coach Dom and Coach McCarthy and so forth and we’ll make decisions then,” inside linebackers coach Winston Moss said. “But right now, Brad seems to be practicing well, looks healthy and we’ll go from there.”

Said Capers: “You’ll see Jamari at times because he’s certainly played well enough to warrant getting some time.”

Emptying out the notebook from the week:

More Micah: Rookie cornerback Micah Hyde said he took the same amount of practice reps on kickoff returns as he has each week this season, and therefore wasn’t sure whether he would handle the duties full time on Monday night against the Bears.

Hyde, who took over as the full-time punt returner on Oct. 20 against the Cleveland Browns and had a 93-yard punt return for a touchdown a week later against the Vikings, looks like a good bet to replace the ineffective Johnathan Franklin on kickoff returns. Hyde lined up for kickoff returns in the second half against the Vikings but did not get any chances.

“I have no idea coming into Monday night,” said Hyde, who leads the NFL with an 18.6-yard punt return average. “If I’m back there, I’d love the opportunity, but if not, I’m sure my teammates will be prepared.”

Hyde returned punts – but not kickoffs – in college at the University of Iowa.

The Packers rank last in the NFL in kickoff return average at just 15.3 yards per return.

Sherrod decision coming: The Packers will have to decide this week whether to add tackle Derek Sherrod to the active roster for the first time in nearly two years. Sherrod’s three-week practice window on the physically unable to perform list expires on Tuesday.

Sherrod, a first-round pick in 2011, has not played since he broke both bones in his lower right leg on Dec. 18, 2011.

“He’s progressing nicely,” offensive line coach James Campen said. “I’m excited to see what’s going to happen there.”

Sherrod also started last season on PUP, practiced for two weeks and then was placed on injured reserve.

Three other PUP players – safety Sean Richardson (neck), offensive lineman JC Tretter (ankle) defensive end Jerel Worthy (knee) – have not returned to practice. They have until the week of Nov. 11 to begin practicing or they cannot return this season.

Developmental quarterback: If you get to the stadium early enough on game days, you can watch practice squad quarterback Scott Tolzien go through a workout on the field.

Typically, it’s just Tolzien, quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo and anyone they can find to run routes and catch passes – which sometimes is backup quarterback Seneca Wallace, who has moonlighted as a receiver during his career.

For Tolzien, the former University of Wisconsin quarterback who was signed to the practice squad at the start of the regular season, it’s a rare chance for one-on-one instruction.

“You think about it, typically the last practice is Friday,” Tolzien said. “For those who aren’t playing in the game, the next [practice] is Wednesday, so I think it’s huge to get an extra day in there. And why not? Everyone else is playing the game, so why can’t I treat it as my own little game?

“Bottom line is it’s an opportunity to get better. So maybe you get 50 extra throws. Well, that’s 50 extra throws, and you’re not going to be throwing until Wednesday, so it’s a great opportunity to improve and get one-on-one time with your coach, too.”

The Packers believe the 6-foot-2, 213-pound Tolzien has potential, which was why last week they gave him a raise from the usual practice-squad pay check of $6,000 per week to a salary practically equivalent to a second-year roster player, at $544,999, after the Cleveland Browns offered him a spot on their roster two weeks earlier.

McAdoo said last week that he wouldn’t comment on Tolzien’s development, but earlier this season he said: “That’s why he’s here. He’s a heck of a football player. He’s a talented young man. He’s smart. He’s a quick study, and we’re fortunate to have him.”

Rob Demovsky

ESPN Green Bay Packers reporter

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