GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Mike McCarthy said this offseason that receiver Randall Cobb's status as the team’s kick returner will be up to his teammates.
If someone else proved capable in that role, the Green Bay Packers coach would remove Cobb from special teams and allow him to concentrate solely on his duties within the offense -- which are expected to be wide-ranging.
One by one through the first five practices of training camp, the Packers have tried myriad returners: Jeremy Ross, Sam Shields, James Nixon, Loyce Means, Jordy Nelson, Johnathan Franklin and even Omarius Hines (the free agent receiver signed on Monday).
To date, none has shown enough for McCarthy to take Cobb off of special teams. Franklin, for example, muffed a kickoff that came out of the JUGS machine during Wednesday’s practice.
“If we were to play a game tomorrow,” McCarthy said Wednesday, “Randall would be my returner. The opportunities that these young men had, the preseason will sort that out for us.”
Cobb, who has three career special teams touchdowns (two on punt returns, one on a kickoff return) ranked fourth in the NFC in punt return average (9.4 yards per return) last season and had one touchdown. He was sixth in the NFC in kickoff return average (25.6). Late last season, the Packers used Ross on returns after Cobb sustained a leg injury against Tennessee on Dec. 23, and Ross returned a punt 58 yards. The next week, Ross had a 44-yard kickoff return against the Vikings.
McCarthy stuck with Ross even after Cobb returned for the playoffs, but Ross muffed a punt in the second quarter of the playof loss at San Francisco and was replaced by Cobb on both punts and kickoffs for the rest of that game.
A change at tackle?: Second-year pro Don Barclay replaced Marshall Newhouse at right tackle for the final period of practice and took all 13 snaps with the starting offense in that no-huddle drill. It was the longest stretch of playing time this camp for Barclay with the starters and might be a sign that he’s pushing Newhouse for that spot.
“Those were good reps,” said Barclay, who also is trying to learn the center spot this summer. “It was kind of like a game-type scenario where you’re moving the ball down the field. Getting reps with the ones and being able to mesh with them and get the feel playing next to (right guard) T.J. (Lang), it felt good.”
Barclay actually has more right tackle experience than Newhouse. Barclay started six games (including playoffs) at that spot last season after Bryan Bulaga was injured. Newhouse was the starting left tackle the last two seasons but lost that spot when the Packers moved Bulaga there.
Odds and ends: B.J. Coleman and Graham Harrell, who have been getting equal practice time as they battle for the backup quarterback job, had vastly different days. Coleman threw at least two interceptions during team periods, although one may have been the result of a wrong route by a receiver.
Meanwhile, Harrell made perhaps his best throw of camp -- hitting James Jones deep on a play-action, roll-out for a 75-yard touchdown. ... Outside linebacker Nick Perry showed how much he has improved in coverage. He blew up a screen pass by batting it down. ... Lang and Josh Sitton, the team’s starting guards, have combined to go 9-1 in the one-on-one drills. Sitton, who is 5-0 already, went undefeated in camp last year. Barclay has gone 14-1 in the drill. Defensive tackle Jordan Miller has the most reps (10) without a victory.
Medical report: With 14 players already sidelined to start the day, the Packers lost defensive tackle Johnny Jolly to an ankle injury midway through practice.
Cornerback James Nixon (knee) and tackle Kevin Hughes (headaches) both returned on Wednesday.
Those who missed practice were: receivers Sederrik Cunningham (wrist), Kevin Dorsey (leg), Charles Johnson (knee), RB DuJuan Harris (knee), S Sean Richardson (neck), CB Casey Hayward (hamstring), CB Tramon Williams (knee), S David Fulton (knee), LB Nate Palmer (shoulder), OLB Dezman Moses (toe), OL JC Tretter (ankle), DE Mike Neal (abdominal), T Derek Sherrod (leg) and DE Jerel Worthy (knee).
What’s next: Thursday’s 9:20 a.m. (ET) practice will be the third straight in pads. The Packers are in the midst of their longest stretch of full-pads practices of camp -- five in a row including Saturday night’s scrimmage at Lambeau Field.