NFC North: Andrew Quarless

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- It often takes an injury or an unusually poor preseason showing for a Green Bay Packers draft pick to get cut at the end of his rookie training camp.

Take last year's class as an example. Of the 11 players picked, eight made the opening-day roster.

The three who did not – fourth-round pick JC Tretter plus seventh-rounders Charles Johnson and Kevin Dorsey – all had injury issues. Tretter missed all of camp because of a broken ankle that forced him to start the season on the physically unable to perform list, while Johnson and Dorsey battled injuries throughout the offseason. Johnson played in only two preseason games, while Dorsey played in only one. Johnson landed on the practice squad before the Cleveland Browns signed him, and Dorsey spent the season on injured reserve.

With that in mind, here's a look at where things stand for each member of general manager Ted Thompson's 2014 draft class heading into Thursday's preseason finale against the Kansas City Chiefs, plus the undrafted rookies who could be on the verge of winning a roster spot:

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S (first round): After a slow start to training camp, Clinton-Dix has found himself around the ball more often of late. He has three interceptions during practices this summer, which ties safety Sean Richardson for the camp lead. However, it looks like he won't unseat second-year pro Micah Hyde for a starting job. That means Clinton-Dix likely will play only in the dime (six defensive back) package to start the season.

Davante Adams, WR (second round): Early in camp, Adams was pushing Jarrett Boykin for the No. 3 receiver spot but inconsistent play derailed that. Meanwhile, Boykin has overcome a slow start to secure that spot. If Adams can refine his route running and shore up his hands, he could still make a push for more playing time as the year goes on.

[+] EnlargeRichard Rodgers
Benny Sieu/USA TODAY SportsRookie Richard Rodgers is in line to be the Packers' starting tight end.
Khyri Thornton, DE (third round): Much like fifth-round defensive end Josh Boyd last season as a rookie, it's been a big adjustment for Thornton. Thompson has never cut a third-round pick coming out of his first training camp, but Thornton might have trouble getting on the field early in the season. Playing mostly against second- and third-stringers in preseason games, Thornton has just one quarterback hurry and no sacks or hits in 81 snaps, according to ProFootballFocus.com. Boyd was inactive for six of the first eight games last season. Thornton could follow a similar path.

Richard Rodgers, TE (third round): Without much fanfare, Rodgers appears to have won the starting job over veteran Andrew Quarless and up-and-comer Brandon Bostick (who went down with a foot injury in the second preseason game). However, Bostick almost certainly would have been the tight end in two-minute situations and likely will be when he returns next month. Rodgers' blocking has to catch up to his pass-catching ability.

Carl Bradford, LB (fourth round): It doesn't matter how the Packers spin the last-minute decision to switch Bradford from outside to inside linebacker this week, that's a tell-tale sign that they're concerned he may never be able to be a productive pass-rusher off the edge. Thompson has not cut a fourth-round rookie since receiver Cory Rodgers in 2006, but Bradford has been just as disappointing. If he makes it, it's solely because they're not ready to give up on him yet.

Corey Linsley, C (fifth round): This was supposed to be a redshirt season for him, but the knee injury to Tretter last week means Linsley might be the most important rookie on the team when the Packers open the regular season in Seattle. His responsibility as the starting center, even if it's only until Tretter returns, is far greater than what any other member of this draft class faces. Physically, he looks the part, but his mental errors have hampered him.

Jared Abbrederis, WR (fifth round): The former Wisconsin standout almost certainly would have made a strong push for the No. 5 or 6 receiver spot if not for a torn ACL in the first week of camp. He also would have had a chance at the kick return job but instead will spend his rookie season on injured reserve.

Demetri Goodson, CB (sixth round): The former college basketball player at Gonzaga who then played three years of football at Baylor has struggled mightily in coverage despite obvious athleticism. He sustained a concussion in last Friday's preseason game against the Raiders, leaving his status his doubt.

Jeff Janis, WR (seventh round): Still raw and unschooled in the complexities of the Packers’ offense, Janis' speed can't be ignored, which is why Thompson likely will keep him on the roster. After his impressive 34-yard, catch-and-run touchdown in the second preseason game, it's likely a team would claim him before the Packers could sneak him through to the practice squad.

Undrafted rookies with a chance: Defensive tackle Mike Pennel of Colorado State-Pueblo is a virtual lock to make the roster after B.J. Raji's season-ending injury, while outside linebacker Jayrone Elliott (who is tied for the NFL preseason lead in sacks with four) might be only one more good showing away from joining him on the 53.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The lower leg injury Green Bay Packers tight end Brandon Bostick sustained on Saturday against the St. Louis Rams likely will keep him out for the remainder of the preseason.

That also could leave his availability for the Packers' regular-season opener at Seattle on Sept. 4 in doubt.

Bostick
"He's going to be a couple of weeks," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Monday. "They were encouraged once they got all the testing done."

Bostick is not expected to need surgery, but McCarthy would not give any other specifics about the injury.

The second-year tight end was injured after he caught a 9-yard pass on the third snap of the Packers' second offensive possession against the Rams. Bostick remained on the field for one more play before taking himself out.

The Packers have been preparing rookie third-round pick Richard Rodgers for the starting job -- he opened each of the first two preseason games with the No. 1 offense -- but Bostick is a big part of their plans, too. He has taken many of the first-team reps in the two-minute drill throughout training camp. He has the big-play ability the Packers lose without Jermichael Finley. Of all the tight ends on the roster, Bostick most resembles Finley in terms of size and athleticism.

Veteran Andrew Quarless replaced Bostick on that series against the Rams and went on to lead the Packers with four catches for 58 yards.

However, when it came time to replace Bostick in practice Monday -- at least in the two-minute period -- second-year pro Jake Stoneburner filled that role.

There were no other new injuries as a result of the game against the Rams.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- They're taking water breaks and serving snacks during training camp practices. They're using a GPS system to monitor players' movements.

They changed their practice plan, flip-flopping their Friday-Saturday in-season schedule, and even within those individual practices they moved drills that used to be at the beginning to the end, and vice versa.

All for one reason: To reduce the injuries that have befallen the Green Bay Packers in recent years.

And what good has it done?

They already have lost two players -- rookie receiver Jared Abbrederis and offensive lineman Don Barclay -- who almost certainly would have been on the opening day roster. Both suffered torn anterior cruciate ligaments within the first two weeks of practice.

Some injuries -- no matter what the training staff does to keep players energized for practice and regardless of how coach Mike McCarthy designs his schedule -- just have to be chalked up to bad luck.

"Watch either one of those things as it happened, it wouldn't give any sort of indication that it was going to be a bad deal," Packers general manger Ted Thompson said. "It's just the way it turned out."

But so far in camp, the number of missed practices due to muscle or fatigue-related injuries has been low. A year after hamstring pulls were the order of camp, the only serious muscle pull in the first two weeks was an oblique strain suffered by starting strong safety Morgan Burnett.

THREE REASONS FOR OPTIMISM

[+] EnlargeAaron Rodgers
Benny Sieu/USA TODAY SportsA rejuvenated Aaron Rodgers is showing no aftereffects -- so far -- of last season's broken collarbone.
1. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers turned 30 in December and is coming off the worst injury of his career (a broken collarbone), but you would never know it by watching him now. He has been humming along in training camp as well as he ever has. His command of the offense is so great that McCarthy has been able to cut several practices short because they have not been forced to repeat plays ruined by mental errors. Rodgers reported to camp about 11 pounds lighter than he was last season, thanks to a combination of workouts (which included yoga) and diet.

2. If there's such a thing as a distraction-free training camp, this has been it. They addressed their No. 1 contract concern by signing receiver Jordy Nelson to a four-year, $39 million extension on the morning camp opened. A few days later, they locked up Thompson with a multiyear extension and said McCarthy would be next. And perhaps they have finally put any bad vibes from Brett Favre behind them when they announced last week that their former quarterback will have his number retired next summer, when he also will be inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame. All of that has allowed the team to focus on its preparation without anything getting in the way.

3. The biggest area of concern last year, the safety position, now may be one their strengths. Micah Hyde's switch from cornerback has gone better than expected, and first-round draft pick Ha Ha Clinton-Dix looks game-ready. Then there's third-year safety Sean Richardson, who has made perhaps more big plays in practice than anyone on defense. If Burnett comes back soon from his oblique strain -- and finally starts to perform like the Pro Bowl-caliber player they thought he was when they gave him a four-year, $24.75 million extension last summer -- then there should not be any concerns.

THREE REASONS FOR PESSIMISM

1. The Packers still do not know -- and may not know for a while -- whether JC Tretter can handle the starting center job. After a rough start to training camp, the second-year pro seemed to settle into the position and was solid in the preseason opener. But given the opener is at the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks in perhaps the loudest stadium in the league, there's probably nothing that can prepare Tretter for what he will have to deal with in Week 1.

2. As good as the Packers feel about Nelson, receiver Randall Cobb and running back Eddie Lacy, they don't have many other proven weapons for Rodgers. No one from the tight end group has emerged as the favorite to replace Jermichael Finley, although Andrew Quarless, Brandon Bostick and rookie Richard Rodgers have had their moments (both good and bad). And among the receivers, Jarrett Boykin has been no better than average in his quest to replace James Jones as the No. 3 receiver. Every time it looks like rookie Davante Adams may take that job from Boykin, he drops a ball.

3. Outside linebacker Clay Matthews participated in every practice during the first two weeks but still is not ready to proclaim his twice-broken right thumb 100 percent. Perhaps it's more of a mental hurdle for Matthews, but he needs to be able to use his hand without restrictions in order to return to his Pro Bowl level. It's hard to tell if Matthews is babying the injury, but in the first two weeks of practice, he took only two reps in the one-on-one pass-rushing drill and lost both. He played a few snaps early in the preseason opener against the Titans and did not seem to have any issues.

[+] EnlargeB.J. Raji
AP Photo/Morry GashB.J. Raji, back at nose tackle after spending last season at defensive end, has had an impressive camp.
OBSERVATION DECK

  • B.J. Raji looks re-energized after moving back to nose tackle. He signed just a one-year contract (worth $4 million) after the free-agent market proved soft, and might be motivated by another chance to test free agency next offseason.
  • Defensive coordinator Dom Capers is preparing second-year pro Datone Jones for a big role. Last year as a rookie, the first-round pick played almost exclusively in the sub packages and hardly ever played in the base 3-4 defense. Now, Jones has been penciled in as a starting defensive end while also playing as an inside rusher in the nickel and dime defenses.
  • If there's a high draft pick who might struggle to get on the field early in the season, it's perhaps third-round defensive tackle Khyri Thornton. Much like defensive end Josh Boyd last season, Thornton might not be ready for playing time from the get-go. Last season, Boyd was inactive for the first five games and seven of the first nine before he found a role.
  • The same could be said for fourth-round pick Carl Bradford. The outside linebacker from Arizona State has struggled to make many impact plays.
  • Last year, safety Chris Banjo was signed a few days into training camp and made the team. Receiver Gerrard Sheppard has a chance to do something similar. He was claimed off waivers from the Baltimore Ravens five days after camp opened and has made some impressive catches.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- With the preseason opener looming on Saturday at Tennessee, the Green Bay Packers released their first depth chart of the season.

It was labeled "unofficial."

And there were few, if any, surprises.

At almost every position where there is even a hint of competition, the more experienced player was listed first.

Keep in mind that a year ago, the first depth chart of the season listed Eddie Lacy as the No. 4 running back behind DuJuan Harris, Alex Green and James Starks. Harris never played a down because of a knee injury, Green got cut at the end of camp and Lacy became the NFL's offensive rookie of the year. The same chart listed Marshall Newhouse as the starting right tackle and Bryan Bulaga as the left tackle. By then, Bulaga had already blown out his knee, and Newhouse did not start a game until Week 11.

Nevertheless, here's what stood out on the first edition of this year's depth chart:
  • Without Jermichael Finley, the order at tight end was Andrew Quarless, Brandon Bostick, Ryan Taylor, rookie Richard Rodgers and Jake Stoneburner.
  • Although coach Mike McCarthy said he has not decided how the backup quarterback reps will be divided up against the Titans, Matt Flynn was listed as No. 2 and Scott Tolzien No. 3 behind Aaron Rodgers.
  • At running back, James Starks was listed as the No. 2 behind Lacy. DuJuan Harris was third followed by Michael Hill, Rajion Neal and LaDarius Perkins.
  • JC Tretter was the top center ahead of rookie Corey Linsley.
  • The No. 2 outside linebacker combination behind starters Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers was Mike Neal and Nick Perry. Neal was the backup to Matthews on the right side, while Perry was behind Peppers on the left even though Perry has been more productive on the other side.
  • Morgan Burnett and Micah Hyde were listed as the starting safety duo with Sean Richardson behind Burnett and first-round pick Ha Ha Clinton-Dix behind Hyde.
  • At right cornerback, former practice-squader Jumal Rolle was No. 3 (behind Sam Shields and Casey Hayward) ahead of rookie sixth-round pick Demetri Goodson, who has struggled so far.
  • At kickoff returner, it was Hyde followed by Harris, Cobb and rookie Jeff Janis. The punt returners were Hyde and Cobb.
  • The depth chart also included the assistant coaches' locations on game days, and there was one major change. Offensive coordinator Tom Clements is going to the coaches box after previously working from the sideline. He will be joined in the box by defensive coordinator Dom Capers, offensive quality control assistant Luke Getsy, assistant offensive line coach Steve Marshall, defensive/special teams assistant Jason Simmons and cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt.
Examining the Green Bay Packers' roster:

Quarterbacks (3)
The Packers have not kept three quarterbacks on their opening-day roster since 2008, but they might be inclined to do so this season in order to avoid a situation like last year, when Rodgers broke his collarbone. Coach Mike McCarthy is high on Tolzien, who made two starts last season, but Flynn has proved he can win as a backup in Green Bay.

Running backs (4)

The return of Harris, who missed all of last season because of a knee injury, gives the Packers insurance behind Lacy and Starks. Kuhn is valuable both as a fullback and on special teams. It's possible they'll keep a fourth halfback, but the loss of Johnathan Franklin to a career-ending neck injury has left them without a strong in-house candidate for that spot.

Receivers (6)

The Packers often keep only five receivers, but given that they drafted three -- Adams (second round), Abbrederis (fifth round) and Janis (seventh round) -- there's a good chance they will keep six. Abbrederis and Janis will not only have to show they're better prospects than second-year pros Myles White and Chris Harper, but they also could help themselves if they can return kicks.

Tight ends (4)

McCarthy likes tight ends (he has kept five before), and the wild card is undrafted rookie Colt Lyerla.

Offensive linemen (8)

The Packers typically only activate seven offensive linemen on game day, so they can get away with keeping just eight on the roster. Barclay's ability to play all five positions also allows them some freedom. Lane Taylor could be the ninth lineman if they go that route.

Defensive line (7)

Worthy and Guion have work to do to make the roster, but there's room for them if you count Julius Peppers and Mike Neal among the outside linebackers, which is where they lined up more often in the offseason.

Linebackers (8)

There will be some tough cuts here. Second-year pros Nate Palmer and Andy Mulumba both played last year as rookie outside linebackers. It also may be tough for highly touted undrafted rookie Adrian Hubbard to make it.

Cornerbacks (6)

Hayward's return from last season's hamstring injury means he likely will return as the slot cornerback in the nickel package, a role played last year by Micah Hyde (who may primarily play safety this year).

Safeties (4)

The major question here is whether Hyde or Clinton-Dix will be the starter alongside Burnett. Chris Banjo, who played primarily on special teams last season, might be the odd man out.

Specialists (3)

There's no competition at any of these spots.

Camp preview: Green Bay Packers

July, 17, 2014
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NFL Nation's Rob Demovsky examines the three biggest issues facing the Green Bay Packers heading into training camp:

Replacing Finley: The longer tight end Jermichael Finley remains unsigned, the more likely it appears his time in Green Bay -- and perhaps in the NFL -- is over, despite his desire to continue to play. The team's reluctance to clear Finley after last season's neck injury falls in line with its philosophy on similar injuries. Just last month, it cut ties with another player who suffered a neck injury last season, running back Johnathan Franklin. The Packers re-signed Andrew Quarless to a two-year, $3 million contract in March, but that's hardly starter's money. The door is open for rookie third-round draft pick Richard Rodgers, who performed well enough during the organized team activities and minicamp practices (which Quarless missed because of injury) to move into the starting spot. Rodgers has the kind of dynamic athletic ability that Finley brought to the position. The wild card there is Colt Lyerla, the undrafted but talented rookie from Oregon. Had Lyerla not left the Ducks' program and run into trouble subsequently last year, he might have been a high draft pick. The Packers also will have to assess whether Brandon Bostick can make a bigger impact than he did last season.

The safeties: We know the Packers used their first-round pick on safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Now what? It's time to see whether the former Alabama standout can make an immediate impact. One thing was clear based on the offseason practices: Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers is not going to hand the rookie a starting job. Unlike Morgan Burnett, who lined up as a starting safety from his first practice as a rookie in 2010, Clinton-Dix played mostly with the second-string defense in OTAs and minicamp. At some point, perhaps even when training camp opens, Capers will insert Clinton-Dix with the starters, and he may never relinquish that role. But the Packers believe they have options in case Clinton-Dix is not ready to start from the outset. Converted cornerback Micah Hyde took almost all of the reps alongside Burnett with the No. 1 defense this offseason, and coach Mike McCarthy would like to get Hyde on the field more often than just sub packages. Using him at safety, at the very least in the base defense, would be one way to accomplish that. The Packers also like third-year pro Sean Richardson, who has shown some playmaking ability.

Capers on the hot seat: With so much of the offseason focus on improving the defense -- from tweaks to the scheme, to changes on the coaching staff, to the addition of high-priced free-agent pass-rusher Julius Peppers, to another first-round pick on that side of the ball -- it's worth wondering what might happen if none of that equates to significant improvement on Capers' side of the ball. McCarthy spent more time than usual this offseason working with Capers on changes to the scheme. At the very least, that was an indication McCarthy was not happy with the direction the defense was headed, although it was not problematic enough for McCarthy to make a change at the position. He trusts Capers and his scheme, but clearly there were issues that troubled him. The Packers slipped from 11th overall in yards allowed in 2012 to 25th last season. Injuries hit Capers' unit hard last season, but McCarthy is not willing to use that as an excuse. Rather, he charged Capers with adjusting his scheme so that it will be more adaptable to plugging in players if injuries strike again.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Between now and when the Green Bay Packers report to training camp on July 25, we will spend considerable time looking at the roster from a variety of angles.

In the days leading up to camp, we will break things down by position group. And before that, we will look at several players who need to give the Packers more than they did last year.

But before we do any of that, let's reset the depth chart as it likely stands heading into training camp. This is an unofficial assessment, but it is based on observations during organized team activities and minicamp practices combined with interviews with assistant coaches and scouts.

First up is the offense:

Quarterbacks: Aaron Rodgers, Matt Flynn, Scott Tolzien, Chase Rettig.

Notes: Expect a legitimate battle for the No. 2 job between Flynn and Tolzien in the preseason. Coach Mike McCarthy noted several times how much Tolzien improved thanks to a full offseason with the Packers. The biggest question here is whether the Packers will keep three quarterbacks rather than only two. Rettig looks like a camp arm, at best.

Running backs: Eddie Lacy, James Starks, DuJuan Harris, Michael Hill, Rajion Neal, LaDarius Perkins.

Notes: The loss of Johnathan Franklin to a career-ending neck injury struck a blow to what appeared to be a deep position. But it also sorted out things somewhat, although Harris still needs to show that he can be productive like he was late in the 2012 season. The knee injury that cost him all of last season does not appear to be an issue. Neal and Perkins, a pair of undrafted rookies, both are slashing backs similar to Harris with Perkins (5-foot-7, 195 pounds) also being similar in stature.

Fullbacks: John Kuhn, Ina Liaina.

Notes: There's no reason to think the veteran Kuhn won't be around for another season.

Receivers: Outside -- Jordy Nelson, Jarrett Boykin, Davante Adams, Jeff Janis, Kevin Dorsey, Chris Harper. Slot -- Randall Cobb, Jared Abbrederis, Myles White, Alex Gillett.

Notes: Adams, the rookie from Fresno State, may eventually supplant Boykin, but he will have to catch the ball more cleanly than he did in the offseason. He battled drop issues at times during the OTAs and minicamp. Fellow rookie Janis showed up regularly during team periods. Harper was off to a strong start until a hamstring injury knocked him out. In the slot, Abbrederis looks like a natural fit. White bulked up after contributing some as a rookie last season and should not be ignored.

Tight ends: Richard Rodgers, Andrew Quarless, Brandon Bostick, Ryan Taylor, Jake Stoneburner, Colt Lyerla, Justin Perillo.

Notes: Even if Quarless is healthy for the start of camp, Rodgers might still have the edge for the starting job after a strong offseason. He's more dynamic as a receiver than Quarless, who missed the entire offseason because of an undisclosed injury. Bostick came back late in the offseason from foot surgery. While there are high expectations for Lyerla, the undrafted rookie did not flash often enough during offseason practices.

Tackles: Right side -- Bryan Bulaga, Don Barclay, Aaron Adams, John Fullington. Left side -- David Bakhtiari, Derek Sherrod, Jeremy Vujnovich.

Notes: Bulaga practiced with a large brace on his surgically repaired left knee and has something to prove after missing all of last season, but the fact that he's back at right tackle shows how much the Packers believe in Bakhtiari on the left side. Sherrod made it through the full offseason program for the first time, which is something of an accomplishment considering his injury history. But he's running out of time to show he can play like the first-round pick that he was in 2011. Barclay, who started 18 regular-season games the last two seasons, has split his time between right tackle and guard and looks like the No. 6 offensive lineman.

Guard: Right side -- T.J. Lang, Barclay, Lane Taylor. Left side -- Josh Sitton, Barclay, Andrew Tiller, Jordan McCray.

Notes: Barclay likely would be the top back up at both guard spots, although Taylor worked at right guard with the No. 2 offensive line while Barclay played right tackle or left guard.

Center: JC Tretter, Garth Gerhart, Corey Linsley.

Notes: Tretter took all the snaps with the number one offensive line this offseason. It is his job to lose, but his lack of experience makes him something short of a sure thing. Gerhart worked ahead of Linsley, a fifth-round pick, but if anyone is going to challenge Tretter it might be Linsley.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Here's a look at what stood out from the Green Bay Packers' minicamp practice on Thursday:

1. Veterans gone: For the final practice of the team's mandatory minicamp, coach Mike McCarthy excused all veterans with five or more years of experience. Without the 16 players that fit into that category, it gave the rookies and younger players more reps than they had received at any point previously in the offseason. But it meant this week's mandatory minicamp was essentially one day of football for the full squad because the Packers spent Wednesday at their annual team-building event, which this year was bowling.

"A lot of younger players got a lot of reps today that did not have the opportunity in the other practices," McCarthy said Thursday.

2. Tolzien shines: With Aaron Rodgers and Matt Flynn among those excused from practice, it gave young quarterbacks Scott Tolzien and Chase Rettig the chance to run the offense. For Tolzien, it was his first time getting starter reps since the weeks leading up to his two starts last season against the Giants and Vikings. Tolzien looked especially sharp in the red zone. On consecutive plays, he threw short touchdowns to his former University Wisconsin teammate Jared Abbrederis and tight end Brandon Bostick. The throw to Bostick was a perfectly thrown fade in the left corner of the end zone.

"I think any time that guys are relying on you and you're the first guy in the huddle, that's a big chance for you," Tolzien said. "But at the same time it shouldn't really change how you are. You should prepare like a starter every day."

3. Rettig's reps: Any reps for Rettig would have been more than normal given that the fourth quarterback on the depth chart rarely gets any work during team periods, so Thursday was big for the undrafted rookie from Boston College. There's no guarantee the Packers will take four quarterbacks to camp, but Rettig helped his cause with a few nice throws. He hit tight end Ryan Taylor in stride on a seam route and also connected with receiver Kevin Dorsey and tight end Richard Rodgers.

4. Changing duties: At one point during position drills, defensive line coach Mike Trgovac worked with the offensive linemen. A few yards away, offensive line coach James Campen ran the defensive line drill. That was something new this offseason, but it makes senses that a defensive line coach could give pointers to offensive linemen and vice versa.

5. Bradford's bat down: Rookie outside linebacker Carl Bradford made perhaps the most impressive defensive play of the practice when he batted down a pass attempt by Rettig on a two-point conversion try. The fourth-round pick from Arizona State showed his athletic ability by leaping and swatting the ball away with two hands.

6. Changing of the guard: With starting guards T.J. Lang and Josh Sitton among the veterans excused from practice, Don Barclay and Lane Taylor worked with the No. 1 offensive line. Barclay played left guard, while Taylor lined up on the right side. It showed how committed the Packers are to leaving Derek Sherrod at left tackle. As a rookie in 2011, Sherrod battled Lang for a starting job at guard. Instead, he remained as the backup left tackle.

7. Roll call, part 1: The 16 veterans excused on Thursday were: kicker Mason Crosby, cornerback Jarrett Bush, fullback John Kuhn, cornerback Tramon Williams, linebacker A.J. Hawk, linebacker Clay Matthews, linebacker/defensive end Julius Peppers, linebacker Brad Jones, long snapper Brett Goode, receiver Jordy Nelson, defensive tackle B.J. Raji, defensive tackle Letroy Guion, Flynn, Rodgers, Lang and Sitton.

8. Roll call, part 2: The following players attended practice but did not participate: receiver Chris Harper, cornerback Jumal Rolle, linebacker Nick Perry, tight end Andrew Quarless and defensive end Jerel Worthy. Running back Johnathan Franklin, who will be waived/injured on Friday because of a career-ending neck injury, was not present.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- It's one thing for a proven player like Clay Matthews to miss the entire offseason program while recovering from his twice broken thumb.

Matthews has turned in Pro Bowl seasons before while missing major parts of the offseason and training camp because of hamstring injuries.

Perry
But for a player like Nick Perry, the Green Bay Packers outside linebacker who has yet to perform like the first-round pick that he was in 2012, the fact that he has been unable to participate in any on-field activities this offseason could prove to be another detriment to his development.

"I don't think it helps any player to miss a whole offseason," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Tuesday following the first practice of minicamp. "I talked about it last week with the staff. I told the team about it today. Our coaching staff took a different approach. You're accustomed to being a 15-week program. Obviously we're in a nine-week program going on here in Year 4 [of the new CBA]. To get all that work done, nothing changes. You have a season to get ready for. You have this much work. And to do it all in a nine-week period, and for a player to miss all of it, obviously it's not a good situation to be in.

"I think any of the players who did not take advantage of this nine-week opportunity or due to injury is definitely something they're going to have to work harder to catch up once training camp starts."

McCarthy would not specify the reason for Perry’s absence, but Perry missed five games last season because of foot and ankle injuries.

"I mean, he's injured, so. ..." McCarthy said.

There is frustration throughout the organization about Perry's inability to get on the field. He missed nearly half (15) of the 32 regular-season games in his two NFL seasons.

When asked what Perry is missing by being unable to practice, linebackers coach Winston Moss said: "Everything. Everything."

"It's unfortunate," Moss said. "It's disappointing."

In addition to Matthews and Perry, three other former draft picks have been unable to participate this offseason: defensive end Jerel Worthy, tight end Andrew Quarless and running back Johnathan Franklin.

Perhaps the biggest concern is about Franklin, the fourth-round pick from UCLA who finished his rookie season last year on injured reserve following a neck injury. The Packers are worried that Franklin's neck injury might be career-threatening. According to two people with knowledge of his situation, the Packers are putting Franklin through more tests to determine whether it's safe for him to continue playing.

Worthy, who last season played in only two games after coming off a torn ACL in the 2012 regular-season finale, missed the first two weeks of OTAs following the accidental shooting death of his grandmother in Ohio, but he also is dealing with an unspecified injury that is not believed to be related to his knee.

Quarless, who signed a two-year, $3 million contract to return to the Packers, also has not practiced. He missed all of the 2012 season because of a knee injury in 2011 but returned to play in every game last season, including 10 starts.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Richard Rodgers stood in the Green Bay Packers' locker room on Tuesday with his iPad clutched in his left hand.

He was headed to a meeting to watch film of that day's organized team activity with his position coach, Jerry Fontenot, and the rest of the tight ends.

[+] EnlargeRichard Rodgers
Mike Roemer/AP PhotoCoach Mike McCarthy says rookie tight end Richard Rodgers is "off to a very good start" in Packers' organized team activities.
But when that meeting was over, he planned to power on his team-issued tablet and watch more film -- not of anything he has done since the Packers picked him in the third round of last month's draft, but of what the tight end is supposed to look like in the Packers' offense.

To do that, he planned to roll video of plays from last season before tight end Jermichael Finley sustained his season-ending (and possibly career-ending) neck injury.

"He makes plays, catches the ball, makes moves in space and that's really what you want to do as a tight end," Rodgers said of Finley. "You want to get the ball and make plays and break tackles, and that's exactly what he does."

Finley's uncertain future -- he remains available on the free-agent market while teams try to figure out whether it is safe for him to play football game -- casts a shadow over the Packers. His nameplate still sits atop his locker at Lambeau Field, although the locker itself is empty.

For now, Rodgers is among seven tight ends on the roster. Combined, they have four career touchdown catches, or 16 fewer than Finley (who has 13 in his 2 1/2 seasons).

"I'm not really worried about what's going on over there," Rodgers said as he glanced toward Finley's locker. "I just try to focus on what I'm doing and learning my stuff and not making mental errors on the field."

So far, Rodgers has done that perhaps better than any of the rookies in the Packers' draft class. In Tuesday's OTA, he made one of the most memorable plays of OTAs when he snagged a one-handed catch on a deep ball that fluttered, perhaps because it was slightly tipped, from backup quarterback Scott Tolzien.

It was an example of what the Packers saw from the 6-foot-4, 257-pound Rodgers last season at Cal, when he played receiver after the Bears' new coaching staff removed the traditional tight end from the offense.

"I just think he's a natural in space," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "I'm excited to see him when we get into the in-line work into training camp, but as far as all of the movement, playing in space, picking up the scheme, I think Richard's off to a very good start."

Much like Finley, there are questions about Rodgers' blocking that he hopes to answer when the pads go on in training camp.

But so far, it appears those who thought the Packers reached for Rodgers at No. 98 overall might have been wrong.

"He's made a lot of plays," Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said after Tuesday's practice. "Matt [Flynn] and I were just talking about it, how when we made the pick some of the so-called experts on the draft channel said he was a late sixth-round pick, [where] they had him as far as a grade, which is pretty laughable when you watch the talent he's got and the ability, especially some of the plays he made today.

“Again, it's helmet and shorts, but you have to be excited about his body type and the hands. He's made some incredible catches, makes it look easy. I think he's going to push for some playing time if he can transfer what he's done in the spring now to the fall and have the potential to be an impact player.”

Whether it’s Rodgers or another tight end (perhaps Andrew Quarless, Brandon Bostick or rookie Colt Lyerla) the Packers need more from the position than what they got after Finley's injury.

When asked whether he can give the Packers that, young Rodgers said: "I hope so."
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Here's a look at what stood out from the Green Bay Packers' third open organized team activity of the offseason on Tuesday:

1. Rodgers impresses: No, not Aaron Rodgers, although the quarterback looks likes his old self. Tight end Richard Rodgers made more plays than perhaps any other rookie during the one hour and 40-minute practice. During one team period, he hauled in a pass from backup quarterback Scott Tolzien that was either lightly tipped or was thrown behind him. Either way, Rodgers reached back to bring in the ball while still keeping his momentum going down the field. Said coach Mike McCarthy of the rookie Rodgers: "Big-time catch today. I just think he's a natural in space. I'm excited to see him when we get into the in-line work into training camp, but as far as all of the movement, playing in space, picking up the scheme, I think Richard's off to a very good start."

2. An interception by a safety, really: For a team that failed to get a single interception from a safety all of last season (the only NFL team with such a dubious distinction in 2013), there was reason to get excited about Sean Richardson's play during a no-huddle team period. Richardson, who played in the final seven games last season in a reserve role after coming off PUP following neck surgery, intercepted an Aaron Rodgers' deep pass intended for Jarrett Boykin. Richardson said he still put some value on the play even though it was during a non-pads session because of the focus placed on taking the ball away and "because I dropped three interceptions since the OTAs started," he said.

3. Inside pass-rushing combo: It remains to be seen how defensive coordinator Dom Capers will line up his pass-rushers once Clay Matthews and Nick Perry return to practice, but it appears he likes the pairing of Datone Jones and Mike Daniels as inside pass-rushers. Those two have lined up in tandem often.

4. A scare for Hyde: Defensive back Micah Hyde, who continues to work with the number one defense at free safety, briefly left practice after getting shaken up but returned to the drills a short time later. First-round pick Ha Ha Clinton-Dix got his first work with the defensive starters in Hyde's place the rest of that drill. The Packers do not give injury information during offseason workouts and Hyde was not available to reporters, but the injury (which appeared to be to his upper body) did not appear serious given that he returned to the field.

5. Sitton's back: A week after Josh Sitton was limited because of a sore back, he was back taking all the snaps at left guard with the starting offensive line.

6. Barclay on the move: Sitton's return meant Don Barclay, who filled in last week at left guard, was back with the number two offensive line at right tackle.

7. QB rotation: The quarterback rep counts during the team drills were distributed evenly among the top-three quarterbacks. In most team periods, Rodgers took four reps followed by four for Matt Flynn and three or four for Tolzien. Rookie Chase Rettig got very few team snaps. Typically in training camp, for every four reps for the starter, the top backup gets three and the third-stringer gets two.

8. Roll call, part 1: Tight end Colt Lyerla, defensive tackle B.J. Raji and defensive end Jerel Worthy all returned to OTAs after missing all or part of last week's sessions. Worthy, however, did not participate in practice. He missed the last two weeks after his grandmother was accidentally shot and killed. Tight end Brandon Bostick participated for the first time since he underwent foot surgery last December.

9. Roll call, part 2: Receiver Chris Harper (hamstring) joined the list of those not practicing, which included running back Johnathan Franklin, tight end Andrew Quarless, cornerback Jumal Rolle, Matthews and Perry.

10. Roster move: The Packers were back at the 90-man roster limit after signing rookie linebacker Shaun Lewis of Oklahoma State. Lewis was in Green Bay last month for the Packers' rookie orientation camp as a tryout player.

The Packers' next offseason session that is open to fans (weather permitting) and the media is June 17, the first of a three-day mandatory minicamp.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Here's a look at what stood out from the Green Bay Packers' second open OTA session of the offseason Tuesday:

1. Rookie catch up: Second-round receiver Davante Adams and third-round defensive tackle Khyri Thornton returned after missing last week's OTA sessions to attend the NFL Players Association Rookie Premier event. Adams said he stayed in his playbook during the trip to and from Los Angeles. "When I was out there, I was studying my playbook," Adams said. "When I was on the flight, I was studying my playbook. That's pretty much all it was."

Boykin
2. Boykin, Harper shine: Receivers Jarrett Boykin and Chris Harper had big days during team and 7-on-7 passing periods Tuesday. Both stood out during the team blitz period, catching hot reads from quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Matt Flynn. Boykin has been working as the No. 3 receiver despite the arrival of Adams and fellow draft picks Jared Abbrederis and Jeff Janis. Harper, a fourth-round pick of the Seattle Seahawks last year, was claimed off waivers last Oct. 18 and is an intriguing prospect with good size (6-foot-1, 228 pounds). "Chris has really improved," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said after practice. "I mean, I think you saw the first snap there in the team period, I mean, he runs a great post and Aaron hits him right in stride. I mean, that's the kind of explosiveness that he has."

3. Barclay's versatility: Third-year pro Don Barclay is making a case for being the team's most versatile offensive lineman. He worked with the starters at left guard Tuesday, when Josh Sitton appeared to be limited. Last week, Barclay worked at right tackle behind Bryan Bulaga. He also could take reps at center. At this point, Barclay looks like he might be the team's top backup linemen at several positions. "Donny has the ability to potentially play five positions on the offensive line," McCarthy said. "I don't know how many guys you can say that about."

4. Inside pass-rush combination: It looks like defensive coordinator Dom Capers is going to give Datone Jones and Mike Daniels every chance to be his primary interior pass rushers in the sub packages. The Packers hope Jones can make the kind of jump Daniels made last year, when he increased his sack total from 2 to 6.5.

5. Another new guy: With B.J. Raji absent from Tuesday's practice, Letroy Guion took most of the reps at nose tackle with the starters. Guion, the former Minnesota Vikings defensive lineman who signed a one-year deal with the Packers this offseason, gives the Packers a taller option at the spot. He has two inches on the 6-2 Raji.

6. To the House: Fourth-year cornerback Davon House, who is coming off an inconsistent season, came up with an interception during a team period, when he picked off a corner route thrown by Flynn that was intended for Kevin Dorsey.

Crosby
7. Kicking competition: There's not another kicker on the roster this year, but it's still worth charting all of Mason Crosby's field goals. He went 7-for-8 during a team period on a windy Tuesday. His only miss was wide right from 47 yards. He also missed from 43 yards, but that kick was whistled dead at the snap and therefore did not count. Last year at this time, Crosby was kicking for his job. This year, he's coming off a career-best season in which he made 89.2 percent of his regular-season field goals.

8. Punt return rotation: Randall Cobb, Micah Hyde, Tramon Williams and Abbrederis took turns catching punts during a special teams period.

9. Roll call: Add cornerback Jumal Rolle to the list of those who did not practice. McCarthy does not give injury updates during OTAs, and Rolle was not available for comment. Others who did not practice due to injuries were: running back Johnathan Franklin, linebacker Clay Matthews, linebacker Nick Perry, tight end Andrew Quarless and tight end Brandon Bostick. Those five also missed last week's sessions.

10. Roll call, part II: Rookie tight end Colt Lyerla, defensive end Jerel Worthy and Raji were not in attendance. Lyerla's agent, Vinnie Porter, said the Packers were aware of Lyerla's absence in advance and excused him even though that was not necessary because it is a voluntary workout. McCarthy said he expected Lyerla back Wednesday. Worthy's grandmother died last week after she was accidentally shot.

The Packers' next open OTA session is next Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. local time.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Tight end Jermichael Finley is scheduled to meet with the Green Bay Packers' team doctors on Wednesday, but it is not an indication that he is on the verge receiving medical clearance or signing a new contract.

According to a source familiar with the situation, Finley had previous plans to travel to Green Bay with his family, and while in town will check in with Dr. Pat McKenzie and the team's medical staff because he has not seen them recently.

"It's a formality, no testing," the source said. "Nothing more, nothing less."

[+] EnlargeJermichael Finley
Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY SportsPackers tight end Jermichael Finley had surgery
in November to fuse two vertebrae in his neck.
Finley is 6 months removed from surgery to fuse two vertebrae in his neck following his season-ending spinal cord contusion against the Cleveland Browns on Oct. 20. The injury left Finley momentarily without movement or feeling. He quickly regained both, but spent several days in an area hospital.

All along, he has expressed a desire to continue his career.

That is why, on Nov. 14, he had the C-3 and C-4 vertebrae in his neck fused. It is the same fusion that former Packers safety Nick Collins had following his 2011 neck injury, and he has not played since. The Packers released Collins the next spring, saying they did not believe it was safe for him to continue playing.

Finley, who has played his entire six-year NFL career with the Packers, is a free agent. Shortly after free agency opened in March, he visited the Seattle Seahawks but did not receive medical clearance from their doctors.

It’s unknown if his own surgeon, Dr. Joseph Maroon, has given him the OK to resume football activities yet. Even if Maroon does so, it does not mean other NFL teams will share his opinion.

The Packers reported for organized team activities on Wednesday. The first day of OTAs typically includes physical exams for the players, which means the team doctors already were scheduled to be at Lambeau Field.

Even if Finley gets a good report, a signing could be days or weeks away. Packers general manager Ted Thompson and his staff are in Florida this week for their scouting annual meetings.

The Packers have a crowded tight end group, but no proven playmaker like Finley. They re-signed Andrew Quarless in free agency and drafted Cal's Richard Rodgers in the third round. They also signed undrafted rookie Colt Lyerla, a talented but troubled prospect who left the Oregon football team last fall.
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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Ted Thompson, as conservative as he may be in many aspects during his tenure as general manager of the Green Bay Packers, believes in second chances.

He showed that when he signed troubled receiver Koren Robinson in 2006 after Robinson ran into personal and legal trouble and was cut by the Minnesota Vikings. Thompson showed it again last season when he brought back defensive tackle Johnny Jolly after Jolly had been away from the Packers for three years while serving prison time and an NFL suspension for drug possession and use.

So his decision to give another chance to talented tight end Colt Lyerla -- the former Oregon tight end who went undrafted and unsigned during the initial wave of rookie free agency but signed with the Packers on Monday after a weekend tryout -- should not come as a surprise.

"We have always believed that, or I have always believed that, there are certain things that people can atone for, acknowledge their mistakes and get on with their lives," Thompson said last weekend during the Packers' rookie orientation camp. "And I am a proponent of those kind of people that try to do that. And that's where we're at with Colt."

Thompson and his staff no doubt spent hours looking into Lyerla's issues -- from his controversial tweets in which he suggested that the Sandy Hook school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, was a government conspiracy to his premature departure from the Oregon football team to his arrest for possession of cocaine -- and believed, like Robinson and Jolly before him, that Lyerla would be able to function in the Packers' system.

And he surely received assurance from Lyerla's camp that he has learned from his mistakes

"He is a first-round talent, and he will be a great young man in Green Bay," Lyerla's agent, Vinnie Porter, told the Green Bay Press-Gazette. "He has turned the corner and will make this situation a great one."

It doesn't hurt that Lyerla plays a position that ranked as one of the team's greatest needs going into the offseason. With Jermichael Finley's medical and contractual status still up in the air and no one with a lock on the starting job despite the fact that the Packers re-signed Andrew Quarless and drafted Cal's Richard Rodgers in the third round, it's easy to see why Thompson decided to sign Lyerla.

From a financial standpoint, there's zero risk involved. Tryout players who receive contract offers almost never get a signing bonus and, like the other undrafted rookies, they earn their minimum base salary only if they are on the 53-man roster. So consider this an extended tryout for Lyeria, a talented player who, at least in Thompson's eyes, deserved a chance.
Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson says it every year -- and no doubt will say it again -- that he doesn't draft for need.

Then how do you explain why he used his first six picks in the 2012 NFL draft on defensive players following a season in which his team ranked last in the NFL in yards allowed?

There are no absolutes when it comes to picking players, but need has to factor in. With that in mind, in an ESPN Insider piece, draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. broke down the team-by-team needs heading into next month’s draft.

And there was little surprise when it came to his thoughts on the Packers. You can quibble with the order, but there's no doubt all four positions he listed qualify as needs.

Kiper listed the Packers' needs as:
  • Safety
  • Tight end
  • Receiver
  • Insider linebacker

The degree of need at safety could depend on how the Packers view second-year defensive back Micah Hyde. Coach Mike McCarthy has said several times this offseason that he wants Hyde on the field more this year. As a rookie, Hyde played almost exclusively in the slot as the nickel or dime defensive back. This year, his role will expand to include some safety.

"Free safety is a clear need," Kiper wrote. "And Morgan Burnett didn't set the world on fire last year either, so I could see the Packers targeting the position as early as Round 1. Calvin Pryor could be a fit."

The top tight end on the Packers' roster as it stands today is Andrew Quarless.

"I'd be surprised if they don't add another option here," Kiper wrote.

The Packers have a top-notch duo at receiver in Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson and they are high on Jarrett Boykin but after losing James Jones in free agency, they could use another receiver.

"The depth chart could use some help, and certainly some size," Kiper said.

At inside linebacker, veteran A.J. Hawk, a former first-round pick, seems entrenched, but the other starter, Brad Jones, could face some competition.

"I have some concerns about how well they can cover underneath from the linebacker position," Kiper said.

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